The line between e-readers and tablets has always been kind of blurred. We think of tablets as being touchscreen slates, like Apple’s iPad ($499), but Sony has had a touchscreen e-reader since before the iPad came out. And we think of e-readers as having black-and-white screens, but booksellers Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble sell color versions of their Kindle and Nook e-readers, the Kindle Fire ($199) and Nook Color ($149).
Google’s new Nexus 7 ($199) is called the Nexus 7 because its screen is 7 inches across, like the Kindle Fire’s and Nook Color’s. And it’s so heavily tied into Google’s online store, Google Play, that it even comes with $25 worth of credit for it. So is it an e-reader, a “tablet,” or something in between?
Ask the e-readers
The Nook Color is sold by (and heavily promoted at) a chain of brick-and-mortar bookstores. But even it isn’t just an e-reader; the interactive displays show off games, apps, and even movies and TV shows on Netflix. Its successor, the Nook Tablet ($199), even has “tablet” in its name. And yet it can still browse the full Barnes and Noble catalog of ebooks, and except when you’re watching a fullscreen video on your Nook you can tap a button at any time to get back to your place in the book you were reading.
Amazon.com, meanwhile, has long since stopped being just a bookseller, and even its online digital content includes music, movies, and apps. The Kindle Fire doesn’t have most of the same creativity and productivity apps as the iPad does, but it’s designed to make it easy for you to buy (and enjoy) Amazon.com’s digital offerings, whether they’re books or anything else.
What about the Nexus 7?
Google is trying to build up a catalog of digital content (movies, books, games, and apps) like Barnes and Noble’s or Amazon.com’s with its Google Play store. And the Nexus 7 is its version of the Kindle Fire: A gadget that’s designed to let you get stuff from that store.
So how does it differ from the iPad?
In screen size, capabilities, and its collection of games and apps. In all three categories, even the cheapest iPad easily beats the (much cheaper) Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 has most of the basics, but there are many games and well-designed apps that are only on the iPad, just like iTunes has a much better music and movie selection than Google Play does.
In many ways, the iPad defines what it means to be a “tablet.” Just because the Nexus 7 falls short of the iPad doesn’t make it only an “e-reader,” though. It, the Nook Color, and the Kindle Fire are part of a third category, which is sort of like an e-reader but isn’t only for books.