Tech Insider: e-Reader or Tablet? Which One’s For You?

4 things to consider before you buy one

Tablet computers, like the iPad, and e-Readers, like the Kindle, have similar designs but function quite differently.  While tablets recreate the PC experience in a sleek, ultra-portable, touchscreen format, e-Readers are essentially single purposed–allowing users to easily read and store virtually thousands of books, periodicals, and other documents.

Both products can be used for leisure or work pursuits, however, consumers should ensure that the apps are compatible and that the software suits their needs.  BlackEnterprise.com tracked down Ben Arnold, a senior research analyst at the Consumer Electronics Association, to share his knowledge about the two types of products for Tech Insider. Arnold is responsible for analyzing industry trends in the consumer technology market as well studying consumer habits and preferences, which fuel those trends. Here are four factors he said a consumer should consider before buying a tablet or e-Reader.

Content shapes the experience. For both e-Readers and tablets, content enhances the user’s enjoyment of the device.  Realizing this, most manufacturers have linked their offerings to marketplaces like iTunes and Amazon where a variety of content (applications, music/video, books, and periodicals) can be purchased.  For the most part, these online stores are device specific–that is, purchases from one manufacturer’s marketplace may not work on another’s device.

Form affects function. Both lightweight and slim, e-Readers and tablets can be used in a variety of environments. While this is one of the pillars of their value, it does make for an altogether new user experience.  Consumers in the market for either product should test them first to ensure that elements such as text size, on-screen typing, and touch screen navigation will be comfortable features for them.

Increased affordability. According to CEA’s CE Sales & Forecasts, average wholesale prices for e-Readers are expected to fall 19% this year, compared to 2009–likely a consequence of the tablet’s emergence. (Most tablets have applications that allow them to also function as electronic readers.) While the iPad has captured a fair share of consumers’ attention in the tablet category, other manufacturers are poised to enter the market in an effort to capitalize on this new segment’s popularity.  We are sure to see the full spectrum of pricing–from economical to ultra-premium–as more tablets emerge.

The two devices could become one. While e-Readers allow users to read and store multiple volumes of books and periodicals as a primary function, tablets do this and much more.  As more tablets permeate the market, develop new features, and become more affordable, e-Readers could follow a similar transformation.  It remains to be seen if e-Readers will add more PC-like functions or expand their reader features by adding color, audio, and video.

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