Digital-Readers for Beginners, Part One

Pew Research Center recently released eye-opening, if not unexpected, statistics on ownership of tablet computers and eBook reader devices. Following a busy holiday season, 29 percent of American adults own a digital-reader device. Ownership of tablets increased from 9 percent to 19 percent, in large part due to the emergence of the lower-priced Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. Amazon reports selling over 4 million Kindle Fire units in the month of December, boosting Android to 39 percent global share (Apple iOS leads at 58 percent) according to Strategy Analytics. Ownership of eBook reader devices increased from 18 percent to 29 percent from December to January.

So what we know is tens of millions of adults in the U.S. own a digital-reader device. Despite the fact that so many people own them, there is a lot of confusion regarding the differences between the devices, and their functions. Hopefully, the following information will shed a little light on the current state of the digital-reader landscape.

What is a digital-reader?
‘Digital-reader’ is a blanket term referring to any device that falls into one of the two following categories: tablet computers and eBook readers. Though there is a clear difference between the devices, some of their functionality is similar, and they share a common ancestry as tools with which to read electronic books.

eBook Readers
While some would argue that the tablet computer preceded the eBook reader, for our purpose of simple understanding, the eBook reader was the chicken. Or is it the egg? Either way, it came first. Amazon Kindle, Sony eReader, and Kobo eReader are all examples of eBook readers. eBook readers are typically pocket-sized, black and white (many use E Ink technology), and may have limited WiFi capabilities. Some newer eBook Readers use touch-screen technology, but most are controlled by buttons and/or a keypad.  The primary function of an eBook reader is to simply download and display eBooks.

Tablet Computers
Apple iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, and Samsung Galaxy Tab are tablet computers. Tablets vary greatly in shape, size, and weight. In comparison to eBook readers, tablets boast larger, full-color touch screens, and increased memory, storage, and processing power. Tablets can be used to browse the web, read eBooks, play games, watch movies, take pictures, check email, and more. All tablets can use WiFi, and some can use 3G internet via cellular providers (e.g. Sprint, Verizon, ATT). With few exceptions, tablets are hundreds of dollars more expensive than eBook readers.

Join me next Tuesday for part two of Digital-Readers for Beginners, when we’ll cover:
1. iOS vs. Android
2. The concept of the digital ecosystem
3. Which digital-reader is right for you?


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