The early models of e-book readers, developed around 25 years ago, weighed more than 0.45 kg and had to be connected to a computer. These clunky records paved the way for the modern, lightweight devices that can download the latest bestsellers and old classics (which are often free) in just a few seconds.
E-book hardware and reading apps are constantly evolving. So if you’re looking to upgrade your device, find a gift idea, or start e-reading, here’s a guide.
Choose your hardware
You can read electronic books on e-readers, smartphones, tablets, computers and other devices. Before choosing a device, think about what you want to read.
Dedicated e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle offer a smooth reading experience with crisp text on a neutral background.
If you prefer text-based books, an e-reader like an Amazon Kindle, a Barnes & Noble Nook, or a Rakuten Kobo makes sense. Compared to tablets, the monochrome, paper-like screens are easier on the eyes, the devices have excellent battery life, and there are no interruptions from other apps.
If you enjoy reading comics, illustrated books, digital magazines, and other visually-oriented materials, consider a tablet with a large color screen. With a tablet or phone, you can use one device for a variety of tasks and entertainment.
Text-only books work well on these too, although screen glare and eye strain can interfere with your reading.
If you need guidance on buying an e-reader, Wirecutter, the New York Times’ product review site, recommends the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Kids as this year’s top choice for e-readers, along with the Kobo Clara HD and Kobo Libra 2 as alternatives .
The site also has recommendations for the best tablets in various price ranges, with a preference for Apple’s iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, and the Amazon Fire HD8.
If you’re upgrading your hardware, consider donating your old Kindle or iPad to an organization that can reuse it—after wiping your personal data from it.
Choose your platform
With an e-book reader, you can purchase and download books directly over a wireless connection. If you already have a phone, tablet, or computer and want to buy eBooks, you can install an eBookstore app (or apps) on it and set up an account.
Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Rakuten Kobo all have Android and iOS apps that you can use to read ebooks, organize your library, and listen to audiobooks (or books with built-in narration).
These digital bookstores also have desktop software or browser-based reading options, which can be great for those who prefer reading on a large desktop monitor.
A warning: you cannot buy e-books directly from these apps. Thanks to Apple and Google’s in-app purchase policies, you must purchase the book or other content on the company’s website, and then your books will be delivered electronically to your app.
And app store owners have their own rules. The Apple Books app lets you buy content right on your Apple hardware. Google Play Books & Audiobooks, which works in a browser, has apps for Android and iOS, but iOS users need to buy their content online first.
Customize your screen
After you’ve downloaded a book, explore settings on your device and in the app to customize your reading experience, e.g. B. to enlarge the text.
The steps vary by app and device, but tapping the top of the screen usually brings up a toolbar where you can customize your ebook’s font, font size, line spacing, and background color. (The iOS 16 update on Apple Books moves its menu and toolbar to the bottom of the screen.)
When you want to look up a word in the dictionary or on Wikipedia, translate a sentence, highlight a passage, make a note, or search the book, press and hold your finger on the screen over the text until a toolbar appears with reference and annotation options.
In addition to reference books, some Kindle books include Amazon’s X-Ray, a feature that provides information about characters, plot, and context.
When you’re ready to take a break, you can usually tap in the top right to bookmark. If you use your Books app on multiple devices, bookmarks and other annotations can be set to sync so you don’t lose your place.
Find free books
E-bookstores offer sample chapters that you can try before you buy, and most also have free public domain books.
Libraries using the OverDrive distribution system typically lend digital materials through the Libby app for Android and iOS.
The Internet Archive, a vast archive of digitized content, has public domain books as well as an online lending library. The Google Books website is another treasure trove of scanned books and digital text. Many titles are free, but the site directs users to shops and libraries for copyrighted works.
Finally, there’s Project Gutenberg, a site that offers free downloads of 60,000 public domain books in a variety of file formats. The site’s founder, Michael Hart, is often credited with creating the first modern e-book available for download when he typed the US Declaration of Independence into a university mainframe on July 4, 1971.
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