Different Kinds of E-Readers

by Ken Burnside Google

    The e-reader and tablet computer market are transforming traditional publishing, giving readers a way to purchase and read e-books in a small, lightweight device, and buy new books anywhere. E-books are text files following a semantically organized format like HTML, XHTML or XML, with additional additional structural data that allows an e-reader to bookmark specific places. E-books first hit the consumer market in the early 1990s, but it took dedicated devices tied to specific online stores for them to take off.

    Dedicated E-Readers

    Dedicated e-book readers are devices that use the e-ink display technology, which uses electrical fields to change the location of a pigment under the surface. They are lighter than tablet computers, can be comfortably read in bright light or sunlight, and have battery durations measured in months. As of 2012, most are grayscale only. While they're marketed as "dedicated e-readers" most can also play back MP3 audio files, and some models of Kindle include a data connection with no monthly fee, allowing you to browse the Web anywhere, albeit in black and white.

    Multimedia Tablets

    Mulimedia e-reader tablets are similar to the iPad with full color, high-resolution LCD displays with LED backlights. They are e-reader devices that can also play back movies, run most Android applications and even be used as cameras and video recorders. These devices start at roughly $200 and go up in price from there, as of November 2012. Like the single-purpose e-reader, they follow the iTunes sales model – the company that sells the device runs a content store, selling music and e-books, as well as movies and TV programs and computer programs.

    E-Reader Applications

    Both Barnes & Noble and Amazon have versions of their e-reader software for the Android, iOS, Windows and Macintosh operating systems; because e-books are stored on their servers, accessing your content from multiple devices is straightforward -- even synchronizing where you were last reading the book. While both of the major e-reader devices have different file formats, there are utilities -- such as Calibre -- that can convert between them.

    eReader Screen Size

    Both the Kindle Fire and the Nook HD are 7-inch tablets, with high resolution -- greater than 216 pixels per inch -- screens. Both come in larger models: the Kindle Fire HD, and the Nook HD+, which are 9-inch tablets with full 1080p or greater screen resolution. The e-ink dedicated devices are smaller, with the Nook Simple Touch has a 6.5-inch screen, and the Kindle Paperwhite has a 6.9-inch diagonal screen. The heaviest of these devices weighs 18 ounces – less than a typical paperback book.


    All of the e-readers mentioned can connect to a Wi-Fi network. The Amazon products have a built-in AT&T cellular data connections, with a 4G plan available for the Kindle HD, allowing purchases nearly anywhere. Nook devices allow you to browse and read e-books within the physical location of a Barnes & Noble store. Most users load these devices at home over a Wi-Fi network.

    About the Author

    Ken Burnside has been writing freelance since 1990, contributing to publications as diverse as "Pyramid" and "Training & Simulations Journal." A Microsoft MVP in Excel, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alaska. He won the Origins Award for Attack Vector: Tactical, a board game about space combat.

    Photo Credits

    • David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images