Buying an e-reader or a tablet?


Kindle on beach towel


At a glance:

  • e-readers and tablet computers can help kids enjoy reading.
  • e-readers are designed specifically for reading and have non-reflective screens.
  • Tablets, like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab also offer many of the functions (and distractions) of a computer.
  • Tablets usually have reflective backlit screens and may contribute to eyestrain.
  • e-books are available to buy online from sites like Amazon and Dymocks.
  • Free e-books can often be borrowed from local libraries and a range of websites offer 'public domain' classics.

Everywhere you go it seems adults and kids alike are enjoying books on e-readers like the Kindle, Laser and Kobo or by using reading apps on tablet computers like the Apple iPad or Samsung Galaxy.

It seems they may even help develop students' reading skills and experts agree the technology and device itself is often the hook that gets kids reading. In fact, recent research shows Australian kids are among the best in the world when it comes to understanding online information and digital reading.

Corrimal East Public School assistant principal David Burke says kids at his school have already embraced the schools' trial iPads as a fun way to read. "The most amazing thing to watch is the way the children intuitively know how to use them. The excitement and enthusiasm towards the device is unparalleled to anything I've ever seen in my time teaching."

At nearby Wollongong North Public School, teacher Kim Warner agrees: "I love the iPad. The growth in the children since their introduction has been nothing short of phenomenal."

Apart from the lure of technology, e-readers have a lot of other things going for them. For holiday reading, there's nothing better than knowing you have a library's worth of books in your handbag. Plus many such devices have a dictionary function where you simply highlight a word in the text to get an instant definition, and they also let you choose a larger or small font to make reading easier.

Ever gotten half way through a book and forgotten an important detail, such as who the heck was 'Voldemort'?  With some e-readers you can simply type 'Voldemort' into the search box and it will list and link to every time his name was mentioned throughout the book.

So if an e-reader or tablet is sounding like a good idea for you or your kids, here are three questions to help you cut through the sales jargon and find the right device:

How much do you want to spend?


If you have an internet connection at home there are thousands of free e-books available for download to your computer, e-reader or iPad. Many NSW libraries are now also loaning e-books, so ask your local library what devices they support. Online you'll also find:

$200 – $550

If you can spend between $200 and $550, you may consider comparing e-readers such as  the Kobo,Dreambook, Laser, Kindle or Sony devices. (While these are available for purchase online, Australian supermarkets now also carry some models). You can still download  free e-books or choose to buy e-books from about $7 - $20 per title from  online stores such as:


If you can spend $600 or more, you might consider purchasing a tablet computer to use as an e-reader. Two of the best known tablet computers are currently the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the  Apple iPad.

Are you worried about distractions?

If your child is easily distracted you may want to avoid tablet devices and opt for an e-reader. e-readers allow for downloading and reading e-books, and not much else.

Ease of use

One of the main differences between e-readers and tablet devices, like the iPad, is ‘e-ink' technology, which is designed to mimic reading real book pages. Electronic ink is not backlit like a computer's LCD screen, so is less likely to cause eye strain over long periods of reading. It can be very difficult to read a laptop or tablet computer screen with direct sunlight on it.

E-readers also tend to be far more economical than tablets on battery usage – although recharging is usually as simple as finding a wall power socket. You may also find e-readers are lighter to carry around than tablets. Basic model e-readers also tend to be less expensive.

Do you want one device that does everything?

If you do, a tablet could be the answer. With a tablet you can surf the internet and do many of the things you'd do on your home computer, as well as take photos, listen to music and watch movies. You can even edit movies if you have the right app.

There are apps for just about everything, including wonderful, free educational apps like ours which add the element of interactivity to  make learning  even more engaging for kids.

Reading time

No matter which option you take, be it an e-reader or tablet device, experts agree that nothing replaces spending time with your child to read together.

For older kids, allowing teenagers to read what interests them is the key to increasing their literary tastes and how often they choose to bury their noses in a book – be it paper or electronic.


This site uses Google Translate, a free language translation service, as an aid. Please note translation accuracy will vary across languages.