So, what is a tablet? Tablets fall into four general categories which, depending on features (some are simple e-book readers, some are Internet devices, some have as many features as a laptop), can become slightly blurred:
1. THE Apple iPad: The gold standard against which all other tablets are measured, and will probably always fall short. It has a large 9.7 in. screen, great resolution, lots of memory, hundreds of thousands of apps, 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, internal keyboard, virtually anything you could want (except Flash). You can read books and magazines, watch movies, browse the net, check stock quotes, get your e-mail, Skype, do it all. But it’s expensive ($499 to $829, depending on the model). In October, 2012 Apple introduced the iPad Mini, a smaller, slightly less expensive but more portable version of the iPad.
2. The Kindle: Smaller, lighter, with a built-in physical keyboard and a black-and-white or color screen in several sizes depending on the model, at one-third the price of an iPad, this device is a less expensive alternative to the iPad. The simple model is basically an e-book reader, priced starting at $79 for an advertising-based model with its 6 inch grayscale screen, to the Touch, with less or no buttons and a touch screen interface (one with free 3G communications), up to the Fire HD and HDX, which has Kindle’s only color screen at 9.7 inches for $379 and is more like an iPad. While the Kindle Fire has access to Amazon’s huge library of books, and an expanding library of games, it has a lot fewer apps than Apple in other areas. But it still has all of the basic apps for Facebook and Twitter, as well as Netflix, Hulu and Pandora, as well as many other video and audio activities. It’s said that it’s actually better for reading e-books without eyestrain (the shiny iPad screen can be reflective out of doors) but it isn’t as good as the larger screen on the iPad for some typing apps. On 9/7/12, Amazon expanded it’s Kindle line with two dedicated readers (including the Paperwhite, below) and three Fire tablets, ranging in price from $69 to $499, with a variety of formats and speeds. The Paperwhite has a 6 inch screen and a built-in backlight, much like the Nook (below) and the Kobo Glo. Amazon also offers a subscription package to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, so users can borrow up to one book per month from a selection of titles. On September 17, Kindle introduced its most advanced e-reader, the Kindle Voyage ($199) along with a new $79 touch screen model. The Voyager is thinner, the battery lasts longer, and the screen is clearer, adjusting to lighting conditions. On 7/18/13, Amazon introduced KindleUnlimited, its $9.99/mo unlimited reading subscription to some 600,000 books and 200,000 audiobooks in its library.
3. The Nook: The offering from Barnes & Noble is an e-reader famous for its simplicity, at least for book reading. Models range from the basic $99 e-reader with a six-inch, grayscale touch-screen to the $249 tablet that comes with a seven-inch, color touch-screen. A lot of people like the way that the hardware is laid out. It also has a microSD card slot (for photos from cameras, for example) which the Kindle doesn’t have. And in May, 2012, it introduced a Simple Touch with Glow Light, an e-reader that uses e-ink but is also backlit for indoor and night time reading ($139). But for web browsing, it’s not as easy as the Kindle or iPad.
The Nook's forte is as an e-reader. After playing with the color version for a while, I liked it better than the Kindle Fire when reading digital books and magazines: the scrolling works more naturally and more quickly, and in bright light the screen is a bit easier to read. I also preferred Nook's microphone, home key, and hardware volume control. The Nook also has a microSD card slot, a feature missing on the Kindle Fire.
Unfortunately, as Nook sales tumbled 34% in early 2013, Barnes & Noble may be rethinking its tablet strategy, as the Nook was too expensive to manufacture, hence the rumor that Microsoft was going to increase its 17.6% stake, or at least B&N was looking for a new manufacturer for the tablets. Either way B&N says it will still continue its digital library business. Problem is, B&N has has decided to stop making the color Nook tablets discussed above which presently cost about 25% less than the comparable Amazon Kindle produce and, more important, will run any Android app, not just select branded products, like the Kindle. Even worse, if B&N stops manufacturing the Nook completely, because of the incompatibility of competing e-book copy protection (see discussion below), purchasers of any Nook e-books could be left in the cold, with completely unreadable books. Sure, there will be some workarounds, like converters or web apps, but they’ll just be a patch. UPDATE: As of 2014, Samsung makes the Nook, and it’s now a full tablet computer as well as a reader.
4. Android: Because there isn’t one single Android standard, it’s difficult to pin down this category as easily as the ones above (even the Nook and Kindle run, to some extent, on the Android operating system, for example). However, Android tablets (as opposed to Apple or Windows based tablets) have been on the market and available (think the Samsung Galaxy, Asus Eee Pad, Toshiba Thrive, Acer Iconia, or the Google Pixel C (the first pad made from scratch by Google) etc.), there will shortly be pads introduced based on the newest Android operating systems like Ice Cream Sandwich (“ICS” or v. 4.0) or Marshmallow (5.0) so you might want to wait for that, as it’ll have more features and probably run faster. Because Android has been around for a while, and is gaining rapidly in the smart phone market over Apple, you might want to have a device that runs on the same platform as your phone. The Android devices probably provide a better experience for those desiring a browser over an e-book reader. There’s also the phablet, which is both a smart phone and a tablet, using the Android platform.
5. Proprietary tablets: Yes, there are quite a few. For example, the U.S. Navy has the NeRD (“Navy e-Reader Device”) which, for cybersecurity reasons, is a secure e-reader that allows those on Navy vessels to read some pre-loaded library titles without cellular connectivity or Wi-Fi. The NeRD was developed through a partnership with Findaway World, which provides digital devices and audiobooks to the Pentagon.
6. Windows 8, 8.1/10 tablets, cell phones and computers (The Surface(s)), which use the Windows Mobile O/S, were introduced in late 2012 and have had mostly positive reviews. But they are more than mere readers or even pads. They’re trending toward laptop replacements (like the Surface 3, 4 and SurfaceBook advertise). For more about this, see the Prediction section above.
7. Giant Tablets: Here’s something I didn’t see coming. Tablets as large as 27 inches, like the Lenovo YOGA, which have become very popular not only for enterprises (meetings and collaboration) but gamers as well.
Now, let’s talk about compatibility: When you buy an e-reader, you are essentially committing to that one company’s catalog of books forever, because each of the e-reader books are incompatible with the others. You can’t read a Kindle book on Nook reader, or a Nook book on a Sony reader, or a Sony book on an iPhone. Although you can read any of these books on an iPad, laptop, iPhone or Android phone with the use of a special app. [There is also an app named Calibre, which purports to convert from one e-book format to another, but this is very limited, because it can’t convert copy-protected books, which virtually eliminates current best sellers. Besides, most classic books are already available in PDF or text formats anyway.] And see the problem which is likely to occur (discussed above) if B&N discontinues the Nook.
Moreover, it doesn’t happen frequently, but your e-book can actually be secretly erased not just from the e-book store shelves, but directly from your electronic reader as well. This happened in 1989 when Amazon secretly removed the electronic copies of George Orwell’s “1984” (ironically a book about government control of digital records and altering history) and “Animal Farm” when it discovered that its publisher (MobileReference) didn’t own the copyrights to those books. Also in 2013 when Amazon removed abuse-themed e-books from its Kindle Store after a report highlighted titles depicting rape, incest and bestiality. And a couple of years before that when Amazon also deleted some Ayn Rand novels and Harry Potter books. No refunds were ever made, even though they were paid for by customers.
This isn’t like buying a car. When you buy a Ford, you’re not committing to only purchasing Citgo gas. You can purchase gas from anyone. Not so with e-readers. You’re married to that brand and it’s catalog of books. If you want to change brands, you’ll probably have to give up all the e-books you’ve ever purchased from a competing reader. Amazon supports the .mobi format which can be read on a Kindle or with Kindle software (available for most major platforms, including Windows, Mac and Android) But no other programs will read it. .epub is excellent for people who want to have the ability to change the font size, as it automatically reflows the text on the page, eliminating scrolling back and forth. But it’s not always supported with iOS. .pdf is a universally supported format, but it has limitations and isn’t available for many books. Many technical and textbook publishers will let you choose your format, but these are niche publishers, not best sellers. And in the U.S., every book published before 1923 is now in the public domain, meaning that anyone can scan it and make it available in plain text or otherwise, although the quality may be dubious.
Theoretically, you could copy a library of your books between competing libraries, but it’s a lot of work locating and copying the “acsm” files controlling licensing, and it only works with e-Pub books. Of course, there is quite a bit of duplication in book catalogs, particularly if you’re reading the best sellers. So choose carefully from the start, if you know the type of books you are looking for and the type of hardware features you desire.
These days, you can also borrow an e-book from your public library, just like you could a paper book.
I hope that this discussion helps...Keep in mind that, by the time you read this, there will be even more models of these products. iPad 3 is supposed to come out in late 2012, and Nook and Kindle morph almost daily into the son of Kindle, Bride of Kindle, AdverKindle and the like. Moreover, you’ll find that not all stores sell all versions of each product. For example, Best Buy no longer carries the basic physical keyboard Kindle, mostly the later touch versions and not the glow-light Nook tablet.
THE FUTURE? In 2013, some have predicted that as tablets have become more prevalent, they may replace e-readers entirely. While revenues for e-readers like the Nook declined 26% from the same period a year earlier, tablet sales have doubled. Moreover, newer tablet devices such as the iPad Mini, the Google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab have exploded into the tablet market, providing devices which do a lot more, but also include, e-readers. Even as the price point of dedicated e-readers declines, users may still opt for tablets that provide the additional web browsing, e-mail, apps and games for a reasonable cost. Stay tuned for more....
FOR MORE INFO - I’M NOT GOING TO REINVENT THE EXCELLENT RESEARCH ALREADY DONE BY OTHERS, SO GO TO THESE SITES:
CLICK HERE FOR A COMPARISON OF E-READERS
CLICK HERE FOR A COMPARISON OF PAD COMPUTERS.
CLICK HERE FOR THE CNET REVIEW OF BEST E-BOOK READERS