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Differences between e-readers and tablets?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / November 22, 2013 8:23 AM PST

Differences between e-readers and tablets? What is appropriate for 8-year-old?

For the holidays my husband and I would like to buy my 8-year-old
either a tablet or an e-reader, but I am completely new to this
territory of technology, so please be patient with me. What kind
of tablet or e-reader is appropriate for an 8-year-old? For that
matter, what is the difference between an e-reader and a tablet,
or are they the same but people refer to them differently, like
notebook vs. laptop? Do you need Internet access for these devices
to work? Does Wi-Fi on the tablet mean you do not need Internet
monthly charges? I know some of these questions are quite trivial
to many, but I'm new to all this. Please help, I would be most

--Submitted by: Kathi W.
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I'd say they're close cousins with a lot of overlap
by wpgwpg / November 22, 2013 9:00 AM PST

When I think of an e-reader, I think of something like the Kindle from Amazon and the Nook from Barnes and Noble. I know Amazon has a line of Kindles, some of which are good for reading e-books and not much more and some which do that but also can get on the Internet, surf the web and do email. I have a Kindle Fire which can do both. I believe there's a similar line for the Nook. Amazon does not call the Kindle Fire a tablet, but it can do most things a tablet can do.
In general tablets come in an extremely wide range of features and prices. I recently bought an Azpen A701 tablet for $40, but you can pay up to $1000 for a Microsoft Surface Pro. The Azpen runs with an operating system called Android, created by Google; and the Surface runs with Windows 8, created by Microsoft. I believe the majority of tablets run with Android. Apple also makes tablets called iPads that sell in the $300 to $800 range.
For more info, you can go to the web site of any store that sells computer like Micro Center, Best Buy, Newegg, Tiger Direct, Amazon, etc.
I don't think I'd want to spend more than $200 at the most for an 8 year old.
Happy shopping. Good luck.

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what is best for an 8 year old?
by jim53711 / November 22, 2013 9:31 AM PST

I am not a pro on this subject, but both my kids have ipods and use my laptop. I think a tablet is a great choice for your child. while I do not know much about the ereaders, I believe they have less to offer, have less games and that might be what you want for your child at that age, but as they get older, a tablet might be a better choice, so I would start with the tablet. I think a great source for you would be your public library or your child's school, as a lot of schools use these as educational tools, and can also recommend great web sites that are both safe and fun, and educational as well. WiFi? you need to have a router or hot spot in your house which would come from your internet if you have it. The router can be rented from your internet provider, but you can pick one up at any store for under $100, which is usually cheaper then renting one. If you do not have internet, both would still work, you can use the wifi at the library for free, and download books from there, then take it home to read your books. There are harmful websites your child can stumble upon, but if you talk about it, and check the history of websites that your child visits, you should be all right, or use parental skills to limit what they can do. Good luck with what ever you decide, and I would not go to cheap on the tablet, I did, it lasted 3 months. Sad

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Depends what you want it to do.
by xrayangiodoc / November 22, 2013 9:33 AM PST

e-readers are designed primarily to read books and magazines and frequently have monochrome displays that eare easily visible in the sun. They will have some Wi-Fi capability and may be able to access the internet. They likely will have little or no ability to run 3rd party apps. Tablets tend to be more capable. Many run android and can run android apps sold or given away on the Google Play Store. The cheaper ones may not be certified to run the Play Store App and get their apps from another source like Amazon. Cheaper Android tablets will come with 512 MB RAM and more expensive ones with 2 GB RAM. This can have a bearing on how many apps can be loaded at the same time and how easy it may be to load an upgraded version of Android on the tablet. Screen size and resolution will vary from 7-10" and 600x400 to 1200x800 pixels. Wireless Internet access is required to access the Play Store for apps and to surf the web. Faster and multi-core processors usually correlate with better performance (and higher prices).
Apple's products are tablets, tend to be at the upper price range, and are noted for a more integrated (and controlled) environment. They tend to have the highest resolution displays which do wash out in sunlight.
I use both, a 3rd Gen iPad and a Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Both have their strengths and weaknesses but are probably a bit pricey for an 8 year old.

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What do to, tablet or e-reader.
by otudor40 / November 22, 2013 9:41 AM PST

To start with I agree with wpgwpg, an e-reader has very limited functionality (in my mind at least). Unless your child does a lot of reading, an e-reader will be wasted.

A tablet has much more functionality and will probably see better use (think of Angry Birds and other similar games along with web browsing).

If you buy a tablet, especially for an eight year old, buy one that is cheap. Also I would make sure if a service plan was available that you buy it, preferably with an accidental damage and handling clause. Also doing a little bit of research might be advised as well (trying to separate the ones that are cheaply made from those with just a little bit of quality workmanship).

I work for a service company that handles tablets, and every day we literally see close to a hundred tablets come in on a daily bases that do not power up, or have cracked screens. It boggles my mind sometimes how many we get.

I guess the bottom line is that realize that even a careful eight year old is still an eight year old. Accidents happen, and like the first car that he or she will own, do not invest tons of money as it's a learner.

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do you recommend any particular brands?
by AwarenessForex / November 28, 2013 9:34 PM PST

Can you recommend any particular brands? Or at least mention which brands broke the most?

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by mamajana / November 28, 2013 11:28 PM PST

I have an IPAD, Nook, and IPhone. If the child just plans to read, I would get a Nook. I have the original which has wifi so I can buy books almost any time, anywhere. My granddaughter is eight and has had the color Nook since she was five. I love the nook because of its long battery life. She also has the IPOD Touch where she accesses games. As for tablets I would do what the others suggested and do some research. Talk to friends, your child's school, local library, the consumer magazines and finally some of the techies at the electronic stores.

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cheap ones are ?
by vrmsr / November 29, 2013 4:51 AM PST

I have 3 cheap tables no brands from the distributor in China and they have held up with use by my grandsons. I have a Nexus 7 and love it and plan to buy another if this should ever go bad. I don't like Apple products because of their marketing and excessive cost before and after the purchase. Just too expensive.
Don't buy a unit uses a cell phone data connection. Waste of money for a child who shouldn't have untethered access to the internet or where they can buy without restriction. Far too much porn out there and lots of it is at free sites.
WiFi connections work well and once set up will keep their settings. Shut the WiFi off and put a security code lock on it. Even teens should have supervised access to the internet which is why they are not allowed to have facebook accounts till 13.

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Parental controls!
by mamajana / November 29, 2013 7:22 AM PST
In reply to: cheap ones are ?

All smart products (Apple and android) have ways to allows parents to implement controls to censor what their children access. My grandson has an IPAD and cannot "buy" or access anything. The original Nook I have is 3G, most readers are not including subsequent Nook versions.

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Tahe the child shopping. See what makes his eyes light up.
by Hartiq / November 30, 2013 5:51 AM PST

One of the most amazing things I ever saw in the child-versus-technology field was my fully adult youger brother struggling to play a game on a iPad just before a tiny girl pulled one off the shelf and started racking up a very high score. According to her parent, she hadn't played that game before, nor used an iPad, but she just worked out how to use the motion controls to win. She outclassed my brother.
I've since seen the same phenomenon repeated with children of other ages. Your eight-year-old might prefer something else, though, so I'd advise taking him into a large store and letting him play. That worked for me when I last needed a new box.
Were I to buy a tablet or an e-reader for a child, I would most definitely buy an iPad. A good one. They are on the top end of the price range for these technologies but they are extremely versatile, will amuse the child forever, can have new applications, games and tools added at any time so they are always "new" and they can last for many years. As a toy, a library and a computer a good iPad is just about the best single thing you could buy a child today.
I should probably mention I don't like Apple's domineering, restrictive and arrogant bullying, its "walled-garden" approach but that sort of thing does have its benefits. It makes it easy for a caring parent to limit the access to naughty stuff - not just sex but also hate sites, spam sites, malware sites and other nasties.
I do *not* work for Apple, never have and have never had shares in the company. I have seen a lot of people use a lot of technology and I think iPads and children mix well. It's like finger-paint without the mess., and there's an app for that, too.
I have for my own use a Kobo Vox from a couple of years ago. I like it a lot. It does videos and has an excellently stable display for reading books. It's a seriously impressive machine. That particular model isn't sold but there are similar machines around.
It should be mentioned that if you want the child to learn programming, a cute little stocking filler is the Raspberry Pi. These machines are designed to engage the curiosity in children yet can be used to do serious work and they are quite inexpensive. I think CNet has done reviews on the Pi.
I hope this helps.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a wonderful new year to all.

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Whatever you buy, visit
by Hartiq / November 30, 2013 6:04 AM PST

If you buy a child any e-book reader, you could do him a great favour by visiting and downloading several million free books, including classics that will be set as schoolwork.
Project Gutenberg has books in many formats for many devices and for that busy child who just can't be torn away from his games it also supplies free audiobooks.
Their catalogues can be downloaded to almost any form of computer from mainframes to smartphones and they are constantly getting new stuff.

The downside? It's copyright free so very few new, recent books are there. You won't find HTML textbooks or the latest best-sellers on PG for about another fifty or sixty years.

But you do find loads of truly marvellous literature.

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Hands-on experience is needed here.
by Michael-G / November 22, 2013 10:10 AM PST

You need to visit your nearest electronics store such as Best Buy of Future shop. Ask a salesperson to demonstrate e-readers and tablets for you and try them out yourself. See for yourself what the two types of devices are capable of. Your child should not be the first member of the family to own such a device. Buy a tablet as a family present for all to use and allow your child some supervised time on the device while you and your husband learn how to use it. Once you and your husband do become comfortable with the device, and able to answer your child's questions. If you just buy a device and hand it over, you will experience nothing but grief and frustration.

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I want to add to Micheal-G
by jimg1474a / November 23, 2013 1:21 AM PST

I think this is one of the best answers I have seen. I just want to add: before going to the electronic's store, I would start with my local library. Gain some knowledge from someone who is not tryng to sell you something. A good e-reader can be had for about $100, I would steer clear of a tablet in that price range. My cheap tablet lasted less then six months. Again, read the post from Micheal-G. If you have internet at home, you can use it for your tablet or e-reader. If not you can probably use it at your local library or Mcdonalds, or other hot spot. The Nook e=read can be used at Barns and Noble.

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Agree 100%
by val_w / November 29, 2013 9:56 AM PST

There has been good advice on here,but you(Michael-G) have put it in a nutshell! I hope the original poster(Kathi W) scrolls down far enough to read yours.
Also, nobody seems to have explained to her that E-readers/tablets are wifi-ENABLED. They don't provide the wifi.They are just capable of picking up a wifi signal, whether it be your existing home wifi set-up, or a free hotspot.

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Differences between e-readers and tablets
by GERRY RAINS / November 22, 2013 10:20 AM PST

Seven inch tablets cost more and have smaller screens. If he is only interested in reading then the e-reader is a better choice between those two. Ten inch tablets have larger screens but are much more expensive.

If you have a desktop computer and a fairly large monitor, then there are numerous programs that do not charge a purchase fee, but do request a donation if you like their product. They work like an e-reader. The best of them can read far more books, magazines, etc.

calibre - E-book Management is fairly universally considered the best of the batch although you will hav to go through the tutorial yourself and then show him/her how to use them.

Now,as to your questions.

They must all have Internet connectivity or you would never be able to download an E-book, and of course they do. An E-book reader is just that - it reads E-books and serves no other function.

A tablet is what I would call a semi-computer. You can send emails, download and run programs, use Skype to talk to friends who have Skype at no cost no matter what continent they are on. Since they do this, they must have an Operating System. However those tend to be simpler than the Operating Systems on computers.

Apple makes the iPad tablet. It is overpriced because their profit margin is outrageous. It is very slightly better than the same sized non-Apple tablets. Of those the Google Nexus 10 is far and away the best. The list price is $399, but most stores charge more. However you can order them from Google, which does not make the hardware although they define very rigid parameters of the manufacturer. The software is by Google.

In this modern world of computers, learning to use a tablet is worthwhile, but if what you want to buy him is for reading only, then save all of you a lot of time and money and buy him an e-book buy him a kindle and more specifically buy him an Amazon kindle paperwhite. This is their latest and best Kindle.

If you have a computer, or access to one, or a friend has has a computer,go to the following website:

This is the site for the kindle paperwhite. If this forum erases the address that I gave you, just go to Their current displayed sings the praises of this e-reader and five it's specifications.are 7.3 ounces and a back light that you can press a button to activate allowing you to read in the dark.

The Kindle picks up WiFi so you have no problem at all in getting new books. It's memory can hold about a half-dozen medium-sized books. When you're done with them delete them and get new ones. Quite a few are in the public domain and thus free. Others are in the massive Amazon library and, while not free, are reasonably inexpensive. He could read for a century if he only used those books that are in the public domain.

Those are the facts, the decision is up to you.


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Wireless NOT needed.
by janitorman / November 28, 2013 4:25 PM PST

"must all have Internet connectivity or you would never be able to download an E-book," You just mentioned Calibre. You do NOT need the e-reader to have internet if you have Calibre on your computer. You put books on the e-reader when you have it plugged in to charge. All wi-fi or any wireless connectivity does to an e-reader is severly reduce the time the battery lasts, if you don't turn off that function.
To the original poster, I hope you now understand the difference between tablets and e-readers. I personally think that tablets MIGHT have some use for a child that age, and there are some rather cheap ones out there, this year, some as little as $40, which, I suppose, is "disposable." You can also get e-readers this cheap, mostly used, which will last much longer and be more relevant (reading itself isn't going away any time soon, but the internet, games, etc. is always changing!)
Also, if you ARE looking for an e-reader only, look for one with the longest battery life, using e-ink in black and white, rather than the rather poor battery life of LCD displays in color.

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Apple iPad
by plawler--2008 / November 28, 2013 4:32 PM PST

Really? Just what is Apple's "outrageous" profit margin on an iPad? I'm dying to know.

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About 80% on the hardware, close to 100% on the store.
by sixit / November 28, 2013 7:44 PM PST
In reply to: Apple iPad

You asked.

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Apple iPad
by BrookBoy / November 28, 2013 9:50 PM PST

@sixit, just wondering if the profit margins you state are just your opinion or do you have a source that we can see to verify your numbers.


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by Ari Britt / November 28, 2013 6:08 PM PST

you wrote>> It's memory can hold about a half-dozen medium-sized books. <<

I have a Kindle and it has about 100 books on it, with space for lots more,

Also, if you get the 'right' kindle you can download books WITHOUT wifi, you can even browse Amazon's Kindle stores for more books, furthermore the satellite connection to do this is free, so there's no monthly costs involved, it also means books can be downloaded 'pretty much' anywhere., further, if he/she has a friend with a kindle they can log into each others accounts and download what's already paid for onto their own kindle.
Mine has a built-in keyboard which makes it so much easier to find books at Amazon's store. I have both an ipad and a kindle, for books only definitely the kindle (it's easier on the eyes and can be read in direct sunlight but make sure you purchase the satellite ready one if you don't have wifi- or even if you do)for anything else, either the kindle fire ipad (which has a downloadable 'Kindle app', I can read my books on either device when purchased as it gets downloaded to both devices).or the Nexus from Google.

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Where did your facts even come from?
by keepthefaithp / November 29, 2013 1:51 AM PST

#1 Kindles hold WAY more than a half-dozen medium-sized books. Even the cheap e-readers do. I have well over 100 books on mine, including some 1000+ page books.

#2 SOME e-readers are only good for reading books. However, I have one that does almost everything my phone does. There are *some* Android apps that aren't compatible with it & I can't make a phone call, but I can browse the web, watch videos, play games, play music, etc. All for $129. (and yes, it is definitely an e-reader...the same company also makes tablets, but the model I have is specifically labeled as an e-reader.)

Now as to the OP's question about wi-fi - If you have internet with a wi-fi connection at your home, no, you don't need to get a tablet that has anything other than wi-fi. However, if your son won't have wi-fi available on a regular basis, you'd be better off looking for a model that has a data connection (at an extra charge.)

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One factual discrepancy
by val_w / November 29, 2013 10:11 AM PST

"It's memory can hold about a half-dozen medium-sized books"...?
The Kindle paperwhite holds up to 1,100. The basic kindle holds up to 1,400.

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I agree, go with a tablet
by franciemr / November 22, 2013 10:42 AM PST

As to the other questions here is how i would explain it. If it is wifi only, that means the tablet does not have a data plan. It can be used to read on its own, but to download books, apps, games, facebook, surf the internet, check email, well, you will have to be in a location that has wifi--either in your home using your home wifi router (if you have one) or in a hot spot like a public library, McDonald's, school, etc. You can download in these locations with a wifi signal. If there is no wifi signal available, then the tablet is only usable to read. If you want the convenience of "on demand" downloading, going on internet, etc whenever you want, then you would need a tablet that has wifi and LTE. But you will have to pay for a data plan to use the LTE. For example, I have an iPad that has wifi and LTE because I travel a lot, hotels charge an obscene amount for wifi, and I use my tablet just like I would a computer. My carrier, AT&T, assigned a phone number to my tablet and I pay for a monthly 3 gigabyte data plan. This is similar to smartphones that have data plans so the user can access the internet, facebook, download music or books, etc. You can check with your cell phone carrier for the price. I never have used more data than my plan permits because I do try to use free wifi as much as possible, especially with downloading a book, movie, songs, etc.- this type of downloading can really use up a data plan whereas internet usage uses little in comparison. I like having the ability to access the internet or download material whenever i want, so i am willing to pay for a data plan. A tablet with only wifi is less expensive than one with wifi and LTE. You could pay this extra $$ for a tablet with wifi and LTE but not get a data plan, but then what is the point of having LTE. But you cannot buy one with only wifi and then decide you also want LTE--you cannot add LTE at a later date to my knowledge. I also agree that you need to consider an 8 year old will be using it. You will want to buy a case to protect it when (not if) it gets dropped. So I would not worry about how thin it is or how lightweight since it'll be in a case. I would probably go with a less expensive one rather than an iPad, simply because no matter how responsible your child is, he/she is a child of 8. You may be surprised at how often you may want to "borrow" the tablet!! I live in Dallas and our library has thousands of digital books. I have downloaded the Overdrive and Kindle apps (they are free). I request a specific ebook, get an email that tells me it is available for download for 72 hours from the time of the email (and if i try to get it at 72 hours and 15 minutes later, it is gone! they have set up the time to access it electronically), and sometimes I can pick which reading app to use (Overdrive or Kindle or epub). I download it to my iPad tablet for free (even the Kindle ones through Amazon are free if going through the library) for exactly 3 weeks. I receive an email 2 days before the book is "due back" for return, the email reminds me the ebook will no longer be available in 2 days. After the 3 weeks, it is gone--I can no longer access it. At my library we cannot renew an ebook. instead, if you do not finish reading it, you have to go back in and re-request it. For some reason, it takes anywhere from 2-7 days rom the time I request the ebook until I get an email saying it is ready to download. Don't know if this is just my library or if it is like this everywhere. Seems like since it is electronic, there is no physical book, so I should have immediate access--but doesn't work this way and I've never asked why. Sorry for such a long answer but you said you are new at this. Sure would be nice if some grandparent or older cousin were getting a new tablet and your child could "inherit" the older tablet!

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Expensive hotel wifi?
by mntncougar / November 28, 2013 9:12 PM PST

Guess I don't stay in the same places, but any motel or hotel I do stay in has free wifi - or I won't stay there.

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Free wi-fi
by Michael-G / November 28, 2013 11:29 PM PST

I have stayed in lots of hotels in Canada and Europe. All have free wi-fi.

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Borrowing books from the library
by keepthefaithp / November 29, 2013 1:56 AM PST

The reason why you don't get immediate access is because they have a limited amount of licenses that can be loaned out - so, until someone "returns" the ebook you want, they can't lend another copy out to someone else, just as if it were a physical copy.

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I agree, go with a tablet ...
by UschieJ / November 30, 2013 4:52 PM PST

I guess I'm not "tablet literary" enough because I don't know what LTE stands for. So far, from the other posts I've read, it appears that a Googles Nexus 7 would be a good tablet for me to purchase. I do not have children and I mostly use my laptop for emails and to do some searching on the internet.... I don't play games, do any banking, etc., etc., and at Best Buy they feel a Nexus 7, which supposedly has one of the clearest screens, would be perfect for me and it's definitely cheaper than anything that Apple makes. Since I already have a laptop connected with Cable One, would I have to buy some sort of "plan" to be able to use a tablet, or will it operate on the same Cable One service that my laptop uses?

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3G/4G (cell service) ot needed - most tablets only need wifi
by sixit / December 1, 2013 2:08 AM PST

"LTE" essentially means cellular data such as what Verizon offers. It's pretty fast. And pretty expensive!

All tablets, except for perhaps incredibly cheap ones, come with wifi built in. As long as there's an open wifi signal available, it will work online. If you have a router, or a newer model modem with wifi built in, then you're fine. In other words, wherever your laptop works, your tablet will work too, about 99% of the time except occasionally when a 'free' wifi hotspot is set up incorrectly.

My cellphone has a tethering option, although it's supposed to be hidden (Shhhhh!). I use it on long road trips or while camping, but my provider doesn't really care as long as I don't abuse it. ;c)

No need for expensive plans; they aren't worth it. Just say no to contracts, too! By the way, the Nexus 7 is a great tablet, and quite inexpensive this season.

Good luck! Happy

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diff between e-reader and tablet
by lchien / November 22, 2013 11:14 AM PST

A true e-reader is for the purpose of reading books. A table is for computing more, useful for browsing, viewing pictures and videos, games, etc. as well as e-mail and limited use for notes, text etc.

That said, a true e-reader can have slower processor, less storage, a monochrome screen that changes slowly. As a result it will also have much longer battery life and a screen more easily viewed under all conditions. It cannot do many of the tasks you do with a tablet and take for granted.

On the other hand, a tablet will have a faster processor for doing more complex things quickly, a quick responding color screen with great color depth and resolution for viewing pictures and videos. It will have things like a camera and blue-tooth that an e-reader probably doesn't need, and it will cost more. It also can run e-reader applications and do everything an e-reader will do, although you pay a penalty in more cost, less battery life, and maybe less sunlight readability.

That's the tradeoffs. As for which is more suitable for an eight year old, that depends on what you expect him to do with it. Obviously a tablet is much more versatile. but if you want him to be a bookworm get him the tablet. If you want him posting on twitter and facebook with his friends or watching you-tube and not reading a lot of the time, get him the tablet.

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The classic READER is the original Kindle
by Aseriesguy / November 22, 2013 11:57 AM PST

e-Readers are hand held computers structured for easy handling of electronic books and documents. Tablets are actually general purpose hand held personal computers. Tablets can perform most of the functions of an e-Reader but possibly not all and not as easily. For instance, any tablet can run the Amazon Kindle client software and read most of the Kindle library and most other electronic book formats. Kindles can read the Amazon library and some other formats but a Kindle can also be used to borrow books from other Kindle users. This is unique to Kindles. All Kindles can access e-Books over WiFi and some models can also access over the 3G cellphone network. Some Kindles are powerful Android tablets with multimedia capabilities while other models function just as readers.

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a book made from paper.
by anthonylittler / November 22, 2013 3:54 PM PST

I love technology but for a child a paper book makes more sense. It can be thrown about and is not a big expence to replace. Books smell good too.
Yes I have, Chromebook, nook, tablet and Windows 8 PC but if I read its a book.

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