“Should you ask Santa for a tablet or an e-reader?” Edward C. Baig, writing for USA Today, recently asked this question in an article the evaluates the relative benefits and limits of tablets and e-readers. His article does an excellent job laying out the specifics and making recommendations. If you’re thinking about purchasing a tablet or an e-reader and aren’t quite sure what do to, I urge you to check out Baig’s piece.
If you’re interested, I’ll give you my answer to Baig’s question. I offer my advice, not as a technology expert, but as an owner of an iPad (version 1) and a Kindle (my third, actually). I have seen and/or played with a few other models.
The iPad is a marvelous device. I use it primarily typical computer tasks (email, web browsing) when I don’t have access to my computer or when I don’t have a WiFi signal. I also use it as a note-taking device, with a stylus. I can sit in a meeting or a lecture and take notes without having to type or set up my computer, and then I can have my notes in electronic form (either as a jpeg or a text document). I also do a fair amount of reading on my iPad, of PDFs or other documents that I have downloaded or have been emailed to me. I use a few of the thousands of apps available for the iPad, and am mostly quite happy with them. My favorites are:
OliveTree Bible Reader
Note Taker HD
Read It Later
Things (to do list and project management)
Flight Track Pro
ExitStrategy (New York subway app)
Unlike many iPad users, I do not watch videos, listen to music, or play games on my iPad.
I have been very happy with my iPad, especially because I am fairly mobile. Keyboarding without a mouse makes inputting text more difficult than with an ordinary computer, so I would not want to use only an iPad. I am reasonably happy with reading documents on my iPad, but the glare of the screen can be a problem in some environments. Plus, the iPad is not great for reading in sunlight.
I am now into my third Kindle, having upgraded along the way. But I am happy with my current Kindle (with small keyboard) and don’t plan on upgrading to Kindle Touch or Kindle Fire.
The Kindles is a great reading device. I like it much, much better than the iPad for reading black and white documents, newspapers, books, etc. The Kindle is very easy on the eyes. Page turning is convenient. It’s fairly easy to highlight text and save highlights to my computer. I have probably spent several thousand hours reading on a Kindle. If I have a choice, I would always choose to read on my Kindle rather than my iPad because it’s so easy on the eyes.
One of the best parts of owning a Kindle is being able to read newspapers in a user-friendly size with no ads. I subscribe to the New York Times and USA Today. The Kindle subscription price, when I last checked, is cheaper than subscribing to the printed versions. Every morning when I wake up, the latest versions of these newspapers appear magically on my Kindle (not USA Today on the weekend). They are neatly organized into sections. I can quickly scan the contents and then read what interests me in an eye-friendly manner without spreading a newspaper all over the breakfast table and getting my fingers inked up. Plus, since I do a fair amount of reading while on an exercise bike, the Kindle makes reading the newspaper in this mode very easy.
Of course, one of the benefits of the Kindle is that you can buy books for quite a bit less than the print versions. By, the way, you can read your Kindle books on an iPad, if necessary.
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Kindle because I am a big reader. The Kindle doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the tablets (though I suppose the Kindle Fire has some of these). If you do a lot of reading, then I’d highly recommend that you buy a Kindle (or similar reader).
If you can only afford one device, either a table or an e-reader, you need to think carefully and realistically about what you plan to do with the device. If you’re mostly going to read on the device, then I’d vote for the e-reader. If you want a wider range of possible activities, then a tablet is best for you.