Microsoft’s five year, $605 million investment in Barnes and Noble’s Nook subsidiary has a lot of people speculating about the future of the e-reader and tablet market. But what exactly is an e-reader, and how does it differ from a tablet?
The user experience is different on the two devices, thanks in part to different hardware configurations. Consider the NOOK Simple Touch, the latest e-reader from Barnes and Noble, and the Samsung Galaxy 8.9 Tab, one of the latest popular tablets to hit the market. If you look underneath the hood of these two products, there are three key areas where they vary: display, processors, and battery life.
Nook eReader, $79:
Paper-Like, Colorless Display:
All NOOK and Kindle e-readers use a display technology that looks like paper. This display is limited to shades of grey, emit no light, and only reflect light, which makes them easily viewable outdoors and could cause less eye strain when reading for long periods of time.
Since these devices are primarily for displaying just text, they typically use inexpensive, slow processors. The latest Nook Simple Touch uses a processor whose performance is in the ballpark of a Snapdragon S1 processor.
Extreme Battery Life:
The first NOOK claimed 10 days of battery life. The latest claims over one month.
Samsung Galaxy 8.9 Tab, $499:
This tablet features a high-definition LCD (720p) capable of displaying 16 million colors. It looks fantastic indoors, but can be difficult to view outdoors since it can not reflect light (and its backlight must emit enough light to battle the outdoor sunlight).
The Galaxy Tab is equipped with a speedy dual-core Snapdragon S3 processor to drive its beefy hardware (HD display, dual-cameras, microphones) and deliver computing experiences (video playback, HD video capture, web browsing, video conferencing, etc.)
All Day Battery Life:
Due to the extreme hardware and heavy tasks done by tablets, battery life can get you a few days, but not weeks (like an e-reader).
These are just two sample products, but they show how the categories can differ. In the future we may see more hybrid products that offer multiple displays or new display technology with hybrid features, such as Qualcomm’s Mirasol.
But some sort of reading device is likely to stick around. Amazon announced that digital book sales surpassed paper back sales back in 2010. Earlier this week the UK’s Publishers Association announced that the “consumer eBook sales increased by 366%.” E-books are no fad – and e-readers probably aren’t either.