I used to be sceptical about reading on any kind of digital device, whether it be a computer, ebook reader, tablet or laptop. Which paper-free reading option is the most enjoyable?
When I had to read through long essays at uni, I always preferred to print them rather than stare at the screen. I found I picked up more mistakes that way.
But when I joined the Tech team at Which? I realised the debate had moved on. It wasn’t just digital devices vs traditional paper. The current question is whether you need an ebook reader or whether it’s best to invest in a tablet,which is more versatile.
So I decided to do my own test. I took home the basic Amazon Kindle and the new Apple iPad for the weekend to see how I got on using both for reading. I slowly converted from a paper lover to the joys of the e-ink screen, but couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the tablet reading experience.
The tale of a tiring tablet
Some argue that you can read just as easily on a tablet using an ebook reader app, such as the Kindle or Apple iBooks apps. And it’s true these devices provide a means of reading in a very similar way to ebooks.
But for me it’s a horrible experience that doesn’t get anywhere near the standard of an e-reader. The glare from the screen tires my eyes quickly, invariably leaving me with a headache. And if you’ve been using your tablet to surf the internet all day, it’s likely to run out of battery just when your book gets exciting.
Plus, tablets readily serve up a huge array of distractions. Settling down to find out what happens when Pi arrived on the island in ’Life of Pi‘, I was distracted by a Facebook notification and drawn into my cyber social life for 20 minutes – losing precious reading time. This is perhaps more of a criticism of my attention span than the fault of my tablet. Nonetheless, if I had been using an e-reader I would have plunged straight into my book without procrastinating.
Shedding light on the subject
E-readers have the advantage of the e-ink screen. It reflects light in the way that a normal page would, rather than giving out light like a tablet. This is much kinder on the eyes. And now you can get illuminated versions, with lights round the edge that mean you can continue reading after lights out. Thanks to their matte screen it’s also easy to read outside, even on a really sunny day. So if you want to relax by the pool with a good read, the e-reader wins here.
In terms of an e-reader’s battery life we’re talking a matter of weeks and even months, not hours. It clearly wins hands down against the tablet. And best of all, the most basic (but still decent) e-reader comes in at under £70. By comparison the best entry level tablet will set you back about £200.
So, if you’re an avid reader like me, I’d stick to the real thing or else buy an e-reader. Nothing else comes close to simulating the book experience.