Hybrid E-Readers: a Challenger Appears

As we discussed in a recent article, there are two main options if you’re looking to read e-books on the go. The first is a true e-reader: a device designed specifically for reading books, which features an e-ink screen designed to mimic the look and feel of an actual book. The second is a tablet: a device designed to be a flat, super portable computer, which features an LCD backlit screen and functions fairly well as a tool for reading e-books.

There is, however, another option: a hybrid.

E-Readers like the Kindle Paperwhite and the Nook Simple Touch With Glowlight have attempted to combine the best of both worlds, using an e-ink display with an LED frontlight to add brightness for reading in low light conditions. The aim is to offer the reading experience e-ink lovers have come to expect, with the added benefit of more readability, without compromising the features that make e-readers so attractive.

Because these hybrids still have e-ink-based screens, they’re still limited to black and white, and can’t play videos. They have, however, been praised for its crisp display, its readability, and the fact that the LED frontlight (which beams light on the screen rather than at your face) doesn’t cause as much eyestrain as your average LCD screen. The LEDs don’t draw a ton of power, so the battery life is still comparable to a true e-reader rather than a tablet — obviously a huge plus.

The Simple Touch With Glowlight and the old Paperwhite has drawn criticism for having uneven illumination along the bottom of the screen, where the LEDs are located. Some folks find it distracting. Amazon seems to have at least partially fixed this issue in the newer version of the Paperwhite, which has earned a ton of praise for just being an overall solid device. (Its LEDs are adjustable and its touchscreen capacitive, unlike the Glowlight’s.)

Overall, a hybrid might be worth the price if all you’re looking to do is read books. If you want a device with more features and you’re willing to trade some readability, though, a tablet is still your best bet.

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