1. Start with an app. I have the Kindle app on my phone, my iPad and Big Mamma Mac. iBooks comes installed on Apple devices. I also have the Kobo and Nook apps, and Acrobat Reader, but generally use none of them. I just don’t like reading on reflective computer screens. These apps are generally free. Get them all. Pick up a couple of those free books and start reading. That's the best way to find out which one works best for you. Books you pay for are usually made available for EVERY platform, including .pdf. B & N, Kobo, Apple Store, Amazon — no worries. Smart publishers make their books accessible to readers.
2. What's the battery life? Dedicated e-readers use a lot less juice than a tablet. An iPad won't last over a 24 hour travel day unless you can charge it somewhere. Staying hooked to the internet uses more power than being in “airplane mode.” A backlit screen uses more juice than one that isn't (you can turn that feature off) but a backlit screen is incredibly useful for traveling, camping or reading in bed.
3. Tablet or e-reader? I prefer reading on a dedicated e-reader because I like the non-reflective screen. Other people don't notice a difference between the e-reader and an app. You'll have to try it and see. When something strikes me that I want to look up, I grab my iPad, as my (couple of years old) Kindle doesn’t have a great browser. However, my daughter's Kindle Fire keeps the Kindle screen pretty well, and has enough internet capability to handle everything she needs from a tablet as well as a reader. Going with a tablet gives a child immediate access to immense quantities of information. "Look it up" takes on a whole new meaning. You'll be surprised at what they find, and how much fun they have doing it. Check the capabilities of each device. Most e-readers now have some kind of browser, though they may not be up to streaming movies or watching TV.
4. Personally, I would not buy a “kids’ version” of a tablet. If they can figure it out, let them have at it. You want them to learn, right? I might possibly use some parental controls, but I doubt it. My parents didn’t believe in censorship, and I enjoyed many happy hours searching their basement stacks when I was a kid. If it was too old for me, it bored me, and that’s been borne out by my experience with other kids. I don't censor either. I turned out pretty well. I would buy durable. You want them to use these devices!
5. What format does your local library support? It probably does them all, but check. This is your portal for free access to the world, so use it.
6. Think hard about durability. I can’t say this often enough. I have broken an iPad, I am ashamed to say. I haven't broken a Kindle yet, and I am rough on them. Ask around. You want a device that shrugs off popsicle drips and living in a backpack that gets dumped in a snow bank.
Clearly, I am a Kindle devotee, since I started with Kindle when they first came out in pre-tablet days. I also love my Apple products, though Windows and Android aren’t really all that different in use. I don’t know what you have or what you like. Look at everything. Talk to everybody you know. Try things out. Then make the selection that will work best for you.
The bonus is that starting a child on either an e-reader or full-blown tablet gives that child access to the world. That child will, without even trying, learn how to “look things up.” That child will, without even trying, become a life-long learner, a self-educating adult. What greater gift could you give your child?
The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy and The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Book Two, Chasing Dreams are both available on line at Amazon in both hard and Kindle format, and available at Smashwords in ALL e-formats. They’ll be available at all retail outlets very soon. Five-star reviews are already coming in!
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