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You know, I remember a time when you used to be able to pull up to a service station and buy gas. Yup, gas. Just give me gas, you’d say, and the Service Attendant would obligingly fill your tank… with gas. Them’s were heady days. Of course, I was a youngin’ then, and not behind the wheel, but that’s how it used to be, well… at least for my father.

Slowly, inevitably, a dark shadow began to loom across the sky. Innocence was lost, and suddenly, regrettably, a choice had to be made. Leaded, or unleaded? D’Ah! The choice was overwhelming!

*Thinking to self* Well, leaded IS cheaper… On the other hand, perhaps my car doesn’t want lead. I mean, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want lead in my diet, well… except for those delicious paint chips. D’ah… leaded. Wait, no… unleaded. Okay, okay, leaded.

In a few years, the conundrum ended. Children frolicked in the street, and men from all races embraced in a long, awkward, butt-puckering hug. Unfortunately, at the time, we didn’t know that we would be faced with an even more insidious choice. Regular, or premium? What am I… Einstein? I don’t freakin’ know.

You’d think that’d be the end of it, but NOooooo! Soon there were other choices. There were variations on a theme, like regular, mid-range, and premium. Of course, there’s the “Olympic” rating system, with ratings like bronze, silver and gold. Although, it seems to me, there’s an inherent flaw with this system. It’s like having an Olympic event with only three contestants. Even the loser gets a metal. That’s a little too “PC” for my liking.

Combined, all of these choices left society overwhelmed, and profoundly confused. One need only look at the fashions of the 1980’s to see the widespread social dysfunction brought on by the overwhelming choices of gasoline grades. But, alas, I lived to see the ultimate abomination. You could now blend the grades. That’s right! If premium was just a wee bit too much, and mid-grade wasn’t quite cutting it; you could now blend the two. It was awesome in its perversion. At the discovery of this, I tore my WHAM! “Choose Life” t-shirt, donned a burlap bag, sprinkled my head with dust, sat down at the pump, and wept.

Tis indeed a story of profound woe, and mild inconvenience, but why bring it up? Short answer: my psychiatrist won’t see me anymore. But, there’s more to it than that. The story is about choices, a LOT of choices. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the staggering amount of choices out there, fear not. You can take solace in the fact that there’s, at least one other person out there bewildered by the staggering amount of choice on the market… FOR EVERYTHING!

So, now you’re in the market for an eReader… no, wait… a tablet, um… you think. If you’re anything like me, you’re thinking like this. Well, if a tablet computer can display video games, and pictures, it can certainly display text. So why are some people buying eReaders? Why not just buy a tablet, and skip the whole eReader thing. After all, you’re pretty sure tablets can do WAY more stuff than eReaders. So why are people still buying them? Is it a financial thing? Well, that’s what this article is all about; that, gasoline grades, and eighties fashions.

One reason you come to Let’s Talk Tablets is to get answers. With this series of articles, we’ll attempt to explain the major differences between tablet computers, and eReaders. Keep in mind that as time goes by, the line between the two technologies is becoming increasingly fuzzy, so there will be plenty of exceptions to the “rules of thumb” we’re about to describe.

So, where to begin? We figure a good place to start is to define the two technologies. According to Wikipedia:

An e-book reader, also called an e-book device, or e-reader, is a portable electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital books and periodicals.

Conversely, and also according to Wikipedia:

A tablet computer, or simply tablet, is a complete mobile computer, larger than a mobile phone, or personal digital assistant, integrated into a flat touch screen, and primarily operated by touching the screen. It often uses an onscreen virtual keyboard, a passive stylus pen, or a digital pen, rather than a physical keyboard.

So, simply put, a tablet PC is a stand alone, complete, mobile personal computer. On the other hand, an eReader is far more about displaying information. Of course, e-books and periodicals still need to be uploaded to eReaders, however this technology is far more about displaying information than processing it. In brief, one technology is designed for processing information, while the other is designed to display it.

Let’s continue by listing some of the major differences between tablet computers and eReaders. They are as follows:

  • The Screen / Readability
  • Battery Life
  • Price
  • Versatility
  • The Ability to Surf the Internet / Connectivity
  • Apps
  • Input / Output Ports

eReader Screen Displays and Readability

This feature is quite possibly the most significant difference between the two technologies. We’ll start by examining the display screen of eReaders. Most eReaders use a form of non-reflective electronic paper known as E Ink (electrophoretic ink). This proprietary type of electronic paper is commercially available in both colour, and gray scale. E Ink is daylight readable, and requires staggeringly little energy to run.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to examine an eReader up close, it’s a bit startling to behold. Even when an eReader is on, you may be tempted to believe that it isn’t. The surface of the screen looks as if the manufacturer has applied a decorative layer of protective plastic. You may even be tempted to peel it off, but don’t. That’s how the screen looks. It is extraordinarily non-reflective. Accordingly, the non-reflective nature of the screen makes it a breeze to read, even from extreme angles. Unlike Tablet computers, which often use Gorilla Glass or similar products, an eReader’s display is far more malleable. It is far less prone to fingerprints, and smudges in comparison to an unprotected tablet computer.

In short, a tablet computer’s display is “hard”; an eReader’s display is not so hard. Again, we realize that not all tablet computers have glass surfaces, but we’re painting with a broad brush. With everything there are advantages and disadvantages. Clearly, the robust surfaces of tablet computers offer significant protection from impacts and drops. That being said, tablet computers are also significantly heavier, thereby requiring more protection in the event of an accidental drop. The glass surfaces of tablet computers are also highly reflective, which can be problematic if you’re attempting to read in daylight.

Without getting into too much detail, the display of tablets is intrinsically different from that of eReaders. Tablet computer displays require backlighting. In direct daylight, sunshine can overpower the backlighting, effectively defeating it. The result; it becomes difficult, and tiring to read. Because eReaders are designed specifically for reading, you will not encounter such issues. While E Ink eReaders do not offer backlighting, most provide the option to adjust the contrast ratio of the display screen. This option comes in handy if the owner is having difficulty reading due to difficult lighting situations, including low light levels.

Other features worth mentioning are touch screen interfaces. By and large, most commercially available tablet PCs come with some form of touch screen interface. Mid to high-end tablets typically offer multi-point interfaces, meaning you can use multiple points of contact to interact with the tablets i.e. numerous fingers, all at one time. Some e-book readers also offer touch screen interfaces. In these cases, the touch screens typically allow only one point of contact at a time. With eReaders, the touch screen is used primarily for “turning” pages, enlarging/shrinking text, and double tapping on words to look them up. Some eReaders also allow hand written notes, while others allow notes to be entered via a keyboard.

Well, we’ve covered a lot in part one of this series, the screen. This is going to be a long one. Hopefully I can keep the verbal diarrhea to a minimum in the next entry. Stay tuned Sports Fans.

See Also:

Tablet PC and eReader Comparison Part 2
Tablet PC and eReader Comparison Part 3
Tablet PC and eReader Comparison Part 4

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