Illuminated vs. backlit eReaders

Should you buy a Kindle or an iPad?

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, I have had several people ask for my input on their eReader shopping dilemmas. And it's certainly true that this can be a confusing time for anyone who is in the market for something you can use to read eBooks with.

The main difference to consider is the issue of illuminated versus backlit eReader. It all started with the original Kindle, with its Pearl e-ink technology. The original Kindles are very much like the experience of reading a physical book; text on a page. This technology is a real marvel for those of us who dislike doing a lot of reading on a computer monitor. 
 
However, one downfall of the original Kindle models is that they are impossible to read in the dark. And can be difficult to read in low-light conditions. You can get a little clip-on light to shine on the Kindle's screen. Because the screen is so non-reflective, this works pretty well. But you might get tired of having a little clip-on dingle dangle hanging from the top of your Kindle. And they can be annoying to pack and travel with, which is a big problem, since the more someone travels, the more they want a Kindle.
 
There are two different ways to address this problem. You can use something with a backlit screen (like a tablet) or you can get an illuminated eReader.
 
Illuminated eReaders like the new Kindle Paperwhite are basically the original Kindle with a tiny light inside the case. This tiny light shines on the page without getting in your eyes. It's an elegant solution to the problem of reading a Kindle in the dark.
 
Backlit tablets, like the Kindle Fire and the iPad, have the down side of making you read on a computer screen. For a lot of people, this isn't such a big deal. Personally after spending a whole day staring at a computer screen, the last thing I want to do is try to read off one. 
 
But if you don't mind reading off a computer screen, then the up side is that the Kindle Fire and the iPad can do a lot more than just let you read a book. These tablets are miniature computers, and if you want to bundle all of your needs into one convenient device, this is the way to go. 
 
If you already have an iPad and are hesitant to get a Kindle, you can start with the Kindle app. See what you think. It may well be enough for your needs, and it's convenient not to juggle multiple devices. However, personally I find that the benefits of reading e-ink rather than pixels far outweigh the inconvenience of having a separate Kindle device.
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Image courtesy Flickr/Zero2Cool_DE