En Español | Whether you spend time in your favorite coffee shop, in airports or on public transit, you no doubt have seen a good number of people flipping through digital pages on an electronic book reader or touch-screen tablet.
Despite their popularity, you can't help thinking "that's not for me" as you clutch a new paperback or hardcover under your arm. And perhaps your kids or grandkids have also suggested an e-book reader to you, but you brush off the trend as something limited to tech-savvy folks.
You're not alone, nor are e-book readers for everyone, of course. But perhaps you're not exactly sure of the benefits of one over traditional books.
See Also: Which tablet is right for me?
Before we dive into five advantages e-book readers offer book lovers, keep in mind a tablet, such as an iPad, also makes an ideal e-book reader — but they can do so much more, hence the $400- or $500-odd price tag. Tablets, which often have a color and glossy screen, are also built for reading email, browsing the Web, playing games, listening to music and watching video. Less pricey e-book readers — usually between $100 and $150 — have an anti-glare, black and white screen (ideal for reading in direct sunlight) and are primarily designed for reading e-books and other material.
Perhaps it's also confusing that some companies offer both a tablet and a dedicated e-book reader, with Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble as key examples.
OK, so if you need further convincing on why to pick up an e-book reader for yourself or a loved one, consider the following five compelling advantages over its paper counterpart.
Photo by EPA/Frank Rumpenhorst/Corbis
1. Size Matters
E-book readers are smaller, thinner and lighter than most paperback books, yet they can hold many hundreds — or even thousands — of titles at a time. Having so much material at your fingertips, wherever life takes you, is incredibly convenient. This is especially true for travelers who'd like to switch between e-books, digital newspapers and magazines on one device. Personally speaking, I also keep a half-dozen free classics on my e-book reader for whenever I'm in the mood for them, be it Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or Dracula by Bram Stoker.
2. Adjustable Font Size
One of the key advantages to an e-book reader is the ability to change the size of the text. Most e-book readers offer five font sizes to choose from, from small to very large, and a few in between. In some cases, you can also change the font style — say, from Ariel to Comic Sans or Lucida Sans to Tahoma — as well as the number of line spaces (if any) and background color. Personalizing the look of the words and layout of the page could be beneficial to those with a seeing impairment. On a related note, the Amazon Kindle has a little-known feature that can have the device read a book to you in a human-like voice.
3. Anytime, Anywhere Availability
Feel like picking up a new book but you realize it's after 9 p.m.? Your local bookstore might be closed. No worries, as you can shop for new books 24/7 when it's done through a digital bookstore on the Internet. And you won't need to hop in your car and fight through traffic either. Regardless of the time or place, you can browse and buy new e-books for your favorite reader via Wi-Fi or in some cases, 3G (cellular) connectivity. And just like you can at retail, it's possible to see what's new and popular, browse by theme or use the search option. With most e-bookstores, you can begin reading the purchased e-book about a minute after you've clicked or tapped to download it to the device.
4. Built-in Dictionary
If you're unsure of a word's meaning, most e-book readers offer a handy built-in dictionary. Depending on the model, simply tap the text or press a button and the highlighted word will be defined for you, including its correct pronunciation, type of word (e.g. noun, verb, adjective) and an example of how the world might be used in a sentence. Don't try this with your paperback. In fact, rewind just a few years and if you didn't understand a word you either skipped over it or had to pull out a paper dictionary to look it up (or were forced to ask someone what it meant). On a related note, some e-books let you highlight words (ideal for students), make annotations or jot down notes.
5. Save Money
Generally speaking, electronic books are less expensive than paper books. On BN.com, for example, ordering a paper copy of Kathryn Stockett's The Help costs about $20 but the Nook e-book version is under $10. Similarly, on Borders.com, you can buy Sandra Brown's Lethal for nearly $20 — but it's under $15, digitally, at KoboBooks.com. This isn't always the case, mind you — Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding: A Novel is only $2 cheaper in digital form at Amazon.com — but more often than not there's quite a price difference. Also, keep in mind many e-book readers let you rent books digitally from your local library if they support the open ePub format; the day they're due they simple expire unless you renew it online, but at least there's no overdue fees!