Answered By: Jennifer Connor
Last Updated: Jul 13, 2017     Views: 1625

Though we can’t make specific product recommendations, we can offer advice, assurances and useful resources to help you make a decision for buying an eReader or tablet.

First let’s look at the difference between eReaders and tablets.

eReaders (Kindle Paperwhite, Nook GlowLight, Kobo, etc.)

  • Single-function devices
  • Black-and-white displays
  • View text-based content only
    • Library eBooks
    • eBooks and digital magazines and newspapers that you buy
  • Cannot be used to listen to eAudiobooks or watch videos
  • Can connect to the internet to download books but regular browsing (email, web surfing, etc.) is not available or is very limited

Tablets (iPad, Kindle Fire, Samsung Galaxy Tab or Tab Nook, etc.)

  • Multi-functional devices
  • Colorful displays
  • Often have built-in cameras and other features
  • View Library eBooks, magazines and newspapers
  • Listen to Library eAudiobooks and music
  • Stream videos from the Library
  • Buy and enjoy non-Library content (eBooks, magazines, videos, games, apps, etc.)
  • Browse the web, check email, stream podcasts, etc.

In effect, tablets can function like eReaders while having other media-rich features. You can even download the Kindle Reading app for free, and read Kindle books on a non-Kindle device, like an iPad.

TIP: While Kindle and NOOK have traditional eReaders in their product lineups, they also have devices that act more like tablets, like the Kindle Fire and Samsung NOOK. To tell the difference quickly between a traditional eReader and a tablet, look at its display. If it’s colorful and sharp like a smartphone or computer monitor, the device is a tablet. 

Despite less versatility, eReaders have advantages:

  • More affordable
  • Usually better battery life 
  • Fewer distractions without a plethora of media options
  • eReader displays have less glare in bright light
  • Some people find eReader displays easier on the eyes for long periods of reading

Whatever tablet or eReader you buy—even if it’s not a well-known brand—it should work with Library eBooks and other digital materials, within the parameters below:


  • Download eBooks from OverDrive
  • Non-Kindle devices can also get eBooks from RBdigital eBooks and Audio.


TIP: iOS and Android refer to the operating system of the device. iOS is used in iPads and iPhones. Android is used in pretty much everything else (Google Nexus, Samsung, Acer, Motorola, etc.).

OverDrive is our most popular collection of downloadable eBooks and eAudiobooks. It also has streaming videos. See the device profiles on OverDrive to learn more about device compatibility and see examples of different tablets and eReaders.

If you want to confirm the compatibility of a device with any materials in our Virtual Library or any available database apps, we’re happy to investigate. Just Ask a Librarian!

These links include eReader and tablet reviews, ratings, buying guides, top picks and side-by-side comparisons.