man with ebook in a hammock

Margie and Darlene, sisters and seniors in their 70s, are avid readers. In the past, one of their favorite activities has been to shop at thrift shops and find good used books to read, but all of that is changing now because they have found a new way to enjoy reading—e-books! I was a little surprised to hear that they prefer reading e-books (electronic books), but they like it so much that they no longer buy printed books.

According to Marc Saunders, a library director in British Columbia, large numbers of seniors are now using e-book readers (also called e-readers). “It seems a lot of seniors are picking up on technology quicker than younger people,” he says. “It’s ironic actually.” Saunders has noticed that seniors “have the time and patience” to learn how to use e-readers.

There are many devices available for reading electronically, such Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Sony’s E-reader, and others. You can also read e-books on your home computer, tablet or cellphone. Margie’s first e-reader was a Sony, but now she and Darlene both use a Kindle Fire HD. They love that it has a light behind the words, though Margie points out that it doesn’t work for reading out-of-doors. She has to use her older Sony E-reader when she reads in the sunlight.

When I asked what she likes best about using an e-reader, Margie said she loves the ability to make the print larger. She says, “My eyes aren’t as good as they used to be, and I can make the print large enough on my e-reader to read without my glasses. When I read a printed book, I always have to wear my glasses or my eyes start to ache.” Margie also likes that she can watch movies on her e-reader, and her grandchildren can use it to play games. She has also used its Internet capabilities to Skype with relatives who live far away.

Margie says another benefit of having an e-reader is the ability to store a lot of books on one small device. She laughs as she says, “In the past, my husband had to keep building me new bookshelves to hold all the books I was bringing home. Now, with all of my new books stored on my e-reader, he’s glad he doesn’t have to build anymore bookshelves!” Darlene feels the same way. She has over 400 books stored on her e-reader—that many printed books would take up too much space in her home.

When it comes to finding e-books to download (via wireless Internet), Margie and Darlene mostly download from Amazon, the manufacturer of their Kindles. Margie points out that Amazon offers many free books to download, and Darlene often takes advantage of Amazon’s offers to “borrow” a book for a month. Depending on which device you use, most manufacturers offer e-books for download onto their devices. The drawback is that when you download e-books from other sources, the books may be in formats that won’t work with your device. There are software options available for free downloading to your home computer, such as Calibre, that can help with converting some types of files to the right format, so that you have a few more options for downloading e-books.

The Internet is full of free e-book options. Try visiting some of these sites to find free e-books: Project Gutenberg, Many Books and Feedbooks. Also, check to see if your local library has e-books. Through most library websites, if you have a library card, you can “checkout” e-books. When the e-books are due back, they digitally “return” to the library on their own. You don’t have to worry about returning them before the due date, so you never have to worry about overdue books or fines.

With so many free e-book options, and with e-readers that offer larger text, light-weight book storage and more, an e-reader can be a great tool for an avid reader and can make reading easier and more accessible for older adults. No matter what electronic device or e-reader you choose to use, as Margie and Darlene have discovered, e-readers make great books available at the touch of a button.