Three kinds of Kindle

Kobo, Kindle, Nook… we begin to be familiar with the names, but the whole concept of ereaders is still relatively new and other people may be using the words differently from the way you are.

If a friend tells you they read a book “on Kindle” there are at least three different possibilities: they may have read it on a Kindle ereader, they may have read it on a Kindle Fire tablet, or they may have read it on their computer (or tablet) using a Kindle app.

To understand the differences, let’s start by clarifying the main differences between an ereader device and a tablet. (Note that the following explanation is a slight simplification.)

The first thing to understand is that a tablet is a computer that runs all sorts of programs known as apps. There are social media apps, organisational apps (email, calendars, diaries…), productivity, functional and information apps (maps, clocks, calculators, dictionaries, encyclopaedias…) and apps that let you listen to the radio or watch films, videos or TV programmes. And then there are apps designed to let you read digital books. There are a whole host of these ereader apps – Bluefire Reader, Ebook Reader, ePub Reader, Aldiko… – as well as ones with familiar names – Amazon Kindle, Nook, Kobo – and you may have a number of them installed on the same tablet.

What’s more, in addition to tablets such as the Nexus and iPad, which seem to have no close ties to digital reading, there are others which use the same, or very similar, names to ereader apps: Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet, Kobo Arc.

Like a traditional computer, a tablet has a full colour screen. As we said in an earlier post, a tablet screen is often higher resolution than a traditional desktop monitor, so the images may seem clearer with brighter, crisper colours, and you’ll frequently see the letters HD – high definition – as part of a tablet name or description.

An ereader, on the other hand, is a device dedicated to reading digital books. Where you might have an app called Amazon Kindle, Nook or Kobo on your tablet, you have a device which is itself called a Kindle a Nook, or a Kobo reader. Basically, the ereader is a single-function device. (Note that there is usually a secondary function that allows you to shop for and download new books to read on the device.)

We are all very used to multifunction electronic gadgets and it might seem strange to have something so modern which is apparently so limited. But the second big difference between a tablet and an ereader is the screen: while the tablet usually has an LCD display, an ereader has a gray-scale screen that mimics ink on paper. This e-ink screen reflects ambient light just as a page does, which puts far less strain on the eyes than reading from a computer – or tablet – screen.

This means that you can’t read from an ereader without a source of light – sunshine, a bedside lamp, or an in-built back light. (Of course, you couldn’t read a book in the dark, either, so maybe this isn’t too surprising.)

So, a tablet allows you to do lots of things, one of which is to use an ereader app, while both that app and a dedicated ereader device will provide an interface that allows you to access the content of a digital publication; this is usually an ePub or a mobi file – mobi is the Amazon kindle proprietary format for ebooks – although it might be a pdf or other computer file format.

As more people get used to the different technological terminology, mix-ups will probably become less common. But for the moment, when you’re talking about ebooks and ereaders, it might just be worth checking to make sure that you and whoever is listening are on the same page – or scrolling through at the same rate!

Don’t forget we specialise in publishing of all kinds, both print and digital: we can help you decide the best platform and format, whatever kind of publication project you have in mind. Just drop us a line to find out more.