I remember when Barnes and Noble first announced they would be selling their own eReader, the Nook. The other eReaders on the market at the time had small keyboards and the display was difficult to see for someone with low vision. But the Nook was different, as it supported large text and had a huge library of titles available. This was a dream come true for someone with a print disability (more about print disabilities here)
Over the years, I have continued to use Nook eReaders (though I also tried out a Kindle Fire) and highly recommend them. It may seem weird to continue to use an eReader, especially as tablets have become more prevalent. Here are my reasons for continuing to use an eReader, and why I think every student should have one.
I can download books from my beloved Bookshare (read more about them here and here) from my computer and onto my Nook with ease. This process has been immensely simplified since Bookshare started supporting downloads of EPUB file formats, which can be directly added to my Nook, no lengthy file conversion or fancy accessibility hacks necessary. The books are perfect from the start!
Reading on a display with backlight can be very tiring on the eyes (read more about managing eye strain from technology here). Many eReaders are available with a paper-like display that feels just as natural as reading from the page of a book. Another bonus is that the displays are often off-white, meaning that there is no additional glare from the sharp contrast of the page (read more about colored backgrounds and the readability of text here).
It’s easy to throw an eReader in a backpack or purse and take it anywhere. They’re also lightweight and can be held for long periods of time, even with one hand. A lot of tablets start to feel heavy after a few minutes or need a stand of some sort, but not eReaders. eReaders are also much lighter than large print books.
When I first started using my Nook in middle school, no one really noticed it. I attended a school that didn’t embrace technology, and while I did have some teachers complain about me using an eReader at first, once I explained how I could read anything I wanted and they didn’t have to worry about if a book was available in large print or not, they seemed much more accepting of the technology.
Large print books can be difficult to find. Often times, the large print sections at libraries and bookstores will consist of romance novels and board books, neither which are age appropriate. Large print books are available online, but can take days to arrive, and not every book is available in large print either. With eReaders, almost every book in print is available in a digital format that can be enlarged.
I timed myself to see how long it takes for me to download books to my eReader. I can quickly search titles on the bookstore or on Bookshare, click a few buttons, and then have whatever book I want in my hand. This is incredibly helpful for when teachers decide to do surprise reading assignments, and I don’t have to scramble to find the book.
Large print books can get expensive very quickly, because of the additional resources needed. eBooks tend to be less expensive- I have found them to be at least 50% cheaper than their physical counterparts. There are also frequently sales and opportunities to get books for free.
A lot of libraries have partnerships with other organizations that allows patrons to check out eBooks for weeks at a time, free of charge. I wrote a post about the eBook services I have found at my local libraries in Virginia here.
Every piece of technology I have ever owned has been dropped before. I would estimate some of my devices have been dropped very frequently, especially the ones I use every day like my phone. I have found my eReaders withstand these drops extremely well, and thankfully none of my eReaders have been damaged.
Almost every eReader I have encountered since 2012 has supported large print for all books, as well as changing the font style for increased legibility. There are also many devices that support screen readers and audiobooks- some systems even let the user read along in the book while the audio plays.
I love my eReader, and consider it one of my most amazing inventions for people who have print disabilities. It’s amazing to see how such a simple device can change the world of a student who previously couldn’t read standard print materials.