With the release of updated and modern e-readers coming out seemingly every month, a debate has come about regarding the usefulness of digital screen readers and tablet apps designed to give the same experience as the original e-ink readers. The two camps obviously have very different priorities – e-ink fans would rather compromise on functionality in favour of comfort and extended reading times, while tablet users prefer the colour display and multi-tasking capabilities of digital screens. So which one would you rather read on?
When it comes to reading fiction, the main priority is likely to be comfort. Here, both types of e-reader have an edge – while a digital reader can be read even in low light, allowing you to take it with you anywhere you want to hide away and read, an e-ink reader is far less likely to cause eye strain as it simulates the contrast of ink on paper. A good compromise between the two is the Kindle Paperwhite, the full range of which can be found at Waterstones. The Kindle Paperwhite is an e-ink reader with a light built into the screen’s edges, effectively acting like a torch shining light onto the page, rather than out like a backlight.
Winner: The introduction of the Paperwhite and lack of eye strain in long reading sessions makes the e-ink reader a clear winner here.
One of the major downsides of e-ink readers is that they’re notoriously difficult to navigate – it’s for this reason that they’re currently not recommended for academic use, as research suggests we need to be able to “map” a study book to learn its contents more effectively. However, a digital e-reader goes at least some way to rectifying this, as many allow you to highlight, colour-in and swipe easily from side to side using the touch screen.
Winner: Tablets and digital readers take the prize for this one – especially more advanced models with browsers to allow you to search for even more detail online.
There’s obviously no contest here: a colour screen will be most people’s first choice for reading Western comics, although pulp issues and manga are likely to fare fairly well on the e-ink screens. Amazon has successfully launched comics on its own e-ink Kindles, but fans of the medium will likely opt for the high-resolution colour screen. Then again, we suspect most hardcore comics lovers would prefer to own the printed artwork themselves – a tiny screen won’t currently hold up to an A4-sized page!
Winner: Digital readers in theory, but the jury’s out on whether it’s even worth it at all.
Most e-readers are relatively minimal, focusing solely on delivering content without any of the gadgets and gizmos that many tablets come with. Some, like the Kindle, do have a browser – and you won’t have to pay to use it on 3G data, which is handy if you get caught without a phone or laptop! Digital readers have the capacity to do far more, offering video capability, email, calendar synchronisation and even games, offering a more tablet-like experience.
Winner: In the end this is down to personal preference – if you’re an avid reader looking to put your library in your pocket, the e-ink displays are likely to offer you far more in terms of comfort, while digital readers are perfect for those who don’t want to spend hour looking at it, but want a little extra functionality from their gadgets.