The World of Electronic Books
Have you joined the large group of people who have been converted from reading printed books to what is called e-books (also called ebooks or electronic books)? Most of the people with whom I talk, both those with good vision and those with low vision, have loaded up their e-book readers (also called e-readers or e-readers). They will tell you the many reasons that they love them. I’m here to share some of them with you.
Before we go any further, I don’t work for Amazon nor do I get anything from them for talking about their products. I’m using them as an example of a popular source of e-book readers, e-books, and audiobooks. Also, I’ve had several Amazon Kindle devices so I use them and know how they work.
Carrying a library
It wasn’t until 1998 that the first handheld e-book reader was sold. The first e-book was created in 1971 and put on the internet. Between 1971 and 1998, e-books were available only on the internet which meant that you had to be sitting at the computer to read them. People were amazed that the first e-book readers could store up to five e-books!
Fast forward in time. Many people have come to think of Amazon’s Kindle as ‘the’ e-book reader, but there are others such as Barnes & Noble’s NOOK. The first Kindle was introduced in 2007 and could store about 600 medium-sized e-books. Kindle also refers to the free app from Amazon that allows us to read e-books on smartphones, tablets, Windows 10 and Mac computers.
Kindles have gone through quite a few generations. They are now split into several lines: Oasis, Paperwhite, and Fire as well as the standard Kindle. As I’m writing this, the standard Kindle is in its 8th generation. Depending on the storage space, most modern e-readers can store 1,000 or more e-books! That’s pretty amazing if you stop to think about it.
E-book Readers for Low Vision
To say that e-book readers have come a long way since 1998 is an understatement! You can definitely carry your library with you. You don’t need to be connected to the internet or Wifi (available on some models) to read. You can download your e-books and take your e-reader with you anywhere.
There are features that are especially helpful for those with low vision. I found several positive reviews of the Kindle Paperwhite done by advocates for VIPs (Visually Impaired Persons).1 What does the Paperwhite have that any e-book reader should have if you are a VIP (Visually Impaired Person)? With the Kindle Paperwhite, you can:
- Use it both indoors and outdoors
- Change the font type and size, the space between the lines, and the margins
- Listen to audiobooks
- Convert text of the e-book to speech
- Get spoken feedback as to where you are on the screen
- Invert the background and text to have black text on a white background or white text with a black background
No need For an e-book reader
You don’t have to have an e-book reader. You can read e-books on smartphones and tablets (Apple and Android) and computers (PC and Mac) with apps like Kindle that come mostly from the providers of e-books. For example, you can read Amazon’s Kindle books with their free Kindle app. However, you might not get all the features of a dedicated e-book reader.
You can buy e-books wherever you got your e-book reader, but there are other sources I'm going to concentrate on some of the sources of free e-books that I use. Everyone likes something free, right?
In the US, Overdrive is a free app that allows you to borrow e-books (and audiobooks) for free from your local library or school. They also have an app called Libby that will help you find titles based on your interests. Both apps are available for Apple, Android and Microsoft devices. All you need is a library card - do that first.
Project Gutenberg was created in 1971 with the first e-book on the Internet. There are now over 50,000 free books available. There are free e-book reader apps for Apple and Android. You don’t actually need the app because you can access the books using any web browser. The books they have are classics as well as books where the copyright has expired.
BookBub is one of several free services where you get links to sources of free and inexpensive best-selling e-books. Bookbub helps you find e-books in the online stores where they’re sold such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and others. When you sign up, you specify what categories of books you are interested in. You can also follow your favorite authors and interact with other readers. I signed up to get my ‘deals’ by email, but you can go to the website. I never run out of e-books!
There are some purists who say that reading an e-book is not the same as reading a printed book. No, it’s not. However, what would it take for you to haul around the equivalent printed books and your magnifier or magnifiers? Just something to think about.
This is just an overview of what’s available. If you are in the market for an e-book reader, you might search for ‘e-book reader low vision’ (it will work with or without the hyphen). If you can’t find enough free e-books, you might search for ‘ebook free.’ You may be amazed to see how many there are.
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