iPads and Tablets vs. eBook Readers: How Should You Read Your Books?

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iPads and Tablets vs. eBook Readers: How Should You Read Your Books?

With the increasing popularity of ebooks, it is no surprise that there has been an explosion in the number of ways that you can read them. When ebooks were first introduced, people could only read them on the computer, which for many proved an unsatisfying experience, if for no other reason than it being difficult to curl up comfortably on the chesterfield with a computer. One of the biggest reasons for the ebook take-off was the development of easily portable devices to read them on. For many people, the ability to read an ebook anywhere they could reasonably expect to read a book, even in the bath, was the tipping point. Reading an ebook no longer required changing all your reading habits, and that made all the difference. It also brought up a new question of what was the best way to read an ebook? Should you use a dedicated ebook reader, or an iPad or tablet?

Understanding eBooks and Reading Options

For those who may not have much experience with them, an ebook is very much like a book. Many have page numbers, although they may not correspond exactly to those in print, and all are essentially just a delivery vehicle for text. The books themselves are the same in almost all cases, there have been a few brief flirtations with multi-media but for the most part they have not proven successful. The biggest difference one has to get used to is that unlike other forms of entertainment, most ebooks are not cross-platform. In most cases you have to read the book using either that vendor's tablet application or their e-reader hardware.

The Dedicated eBook Reader

The simplest device to read your ebooks on is a dedicated reader, a single-purpose device, usually with an electronic ink screen. The big advantage of electronic ink, or eInk, is that it retains an image without power being applied. That means that the average ebook reader only uses power to change pages, not to display them, and as a result an ebook reader can easily go days if not weeks between charges. The screen is often seen as easier on the eyes, as it cannot be backlit. Another advantage is that the nature of these screens makes them much easier to read outdoors. The biggest disadvantage of a dedicated reader is flexibility. One cannot load other software on them, and the majority are vendor-locked to only one of the major ebook stores.

The Tablet or iPad

The tablet, which includes the iPad, is a very different experience. For one thing, tablets are multi-purpose devices that can do a lot more than simply display ebooks. Tablet users can take advantage of anything from business productivity applications (or apps), to the latest in addictive games. The other advantage of a tablet is that because it has access to apps, owners are not tied down to a single ebook storefront, as one tablet can access all of the major vendors' storefronts through their apps. The disadvantages of a tablet are a much shorter battery life, measured in hours, and a screen that some people find harder to read from because of the backlighting.

Choosing Between Tablets and eBook Readers

The first step to choosing the right eBook device for you is understanding your needs as a reader. There is no one perfect device that fits the needs of all readers because there is simply too much variability between people's needs. This is why it is so important to take the time to analyse your needs before you make a decision on just what kind of device can meet them.

How Much do You Read?

Many ebook purchasers are also voracious readers, and the amount a person reads is an important consideration for choosing an ebook reader as opposed to a tablet or iPad. Someone who reads a great deal is likely to benefit more from the increased battery life of an ebook reader as opposed to a tablet. The display is another factor to consider, as for many people eInk is seen as easier on the eyes because it is illuminated entirely by reflected lighting from above, rather than direct lighting from below. Not everyone sees this as an advantage, but for those who do, it makes an ebook reader the better choice for long periods of sustained reading.

Where do You Read?

Another factor to consider is where and under what conditions you read your ebooks. Both work very well if you are reading indoors in a brightly lit room, but not everyone reads under those conditions all the time. Many LCD-based devices are hard to read outdoors in sunlight, and even those which are readable in sunlight often require that the backlight be turned all the way up to generate enough contrast, which shortens battery life significantly. Direct sunlight is not an issue for ebook readers, so an ebook reader is a better option for those who do a lot of reading outside.

On the other hand, the LCD really comes into its own at night or in any dimly lit area, as it not only provides its own lighting, but many iPad and tablet ebook reader apps also allow a night mode of white text on a black field which many people find easier to read in low light conditions. This mode is generally unavailable on dedicated ebook readers, and only a small proportion of them have built-in lighting. This makes an iPad or tablet a generally better choice for those who read in poor light conditions.

Where do You Get Your eBooks?

For those prospective purchasers who already have an existing ebook library, there is another fact to consider: you need a reading device that is compatible with your existing ebook library, or all the money you may have previously spent could have been wasted. This is where dedicated ebook readers run into issues. Each of the major ebook stores has its own digital rights management, or DRM scheme, which provides an effective vendor lock-in. This means if you have an extensive library from one of the major ebook retailers, your ebook reader choices are limited to that vendor's offerings. Tablets and iPads don't have this problem, as all the major vendors provide ebook reader apps so that buyers can access content from multiple vendors on the same device.

If you are still unsure about which device to buy, the following matrix should make it easier to compare features and make the right decision for an ebook reading device that fits your particular needs:

Feature/ Function

Tablet or iPad

eBook Reader

Battery Life


Days or Weeks

Sunlight Reading



Nighttime Reading


Limited Models

Ease of Reading



Vendor Lock-In



Format Flexibility



The real key to choosing the right device lies in balancing your requirements. For many people the most important factor is about supporting their existing ebook library. If you have already made a large investment in ebooks, then the decision is already partially made for you, being either that particular vendor's ebook reader or an iPad or tablet; otherwise, simply balance your needs to see which choice works best.

Buying an eBook Reader, iPad, or Tablet on eBay

Regardless of whether an ebook reader, iPad, or tablet is best for your reading needs, eBay is an excellent place to find the device you need. All you have to do is put your search terms in the box, there is one on every page, and watch your results appear on the screen. Then, once you have your results, you can use the filters in the sidebar to narrow them down to just the ones that meet your requirements. You can filter out tablets, iPads, or ebook readers, as well as filtering by everything from size to price range. Then, once you have your results narrowed down, you can use the sort function to put the ones that best fit your needs at the top of the screen.

After you have that sorted, the next step is to determine which of eBay's many reputable sellers you wish to do business with. The best way to do that is to start by checking out their eBay profile page where you can see everything from their feedback to location. Some sellers may also bundle cases with their offerings, or allow local buyers to pick them up in person.


There is no single answer to how you should read your ebooks; at least no single answer that holds true for every reader. Different people have different needs and require an ebook reading device that is tailored to their own unique situation. A person who does not read a lot, but has a large variety of ebooks from several different vendors is likely to benefit from the greater flexibility of a tablet, while one who reads a lot and buys all their ebooks from a single vendor is more likely to benefit from a dedicated ebook reader. The conditions and circumstances under which you prefer to read can also make a difference, as an ebook reader is much better for reading outside in the garden, but may not be suitable for use at night. As with anything else, the key lies in knowing your own needs so that you can more easily find the device to meet them.

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