A Newbie’s Guide to eReading

May 20, 2013

Ereading still causes a lot of confusion.  I thought it might be useful to put together a post of some common questions regarding ereading and to do my best to answer them.

What is eReading?
Simply put, ereading is reading a book, comic, magazine or other similar content on an electronic device rather than in hard copy.

Why should I give up my paperback and switch to ereading?
Like many things, ereading is not an either/or activity.  There is no reason why you cannot read books in both hard copy and ebook formats.  It is very much a personal choice.

Having said that, there are pros and cons to ereading.  I have listed some here to help you decide if ereading is right for you.

.  With ereading you can carry your entire library around with you on your eReader, smartphone or tablet.   Can you imagine carrying around all 14 hardback books in the Wheel of Time series?  With ereading that is no issue. Likewise, if you’re living in a small space, an ereader takes up much less room than forty shelves of books.

Accessibility.  Most ereaders and ereading applications allow you to adjust the font size to suit your eyesight.  This is a real lifesaver if your eyesight isn’t what it was.

Never lose your place.  Most eReaders and devices keep your place for you, and some automatically synchronise over multiple devices.  Amazon even synchronises between the Amazon Kindle ebook and the Audible audiobook.

Additional cool features.  eReading gives you lots of extra features.  These range from such inbuilt dictionaries (if you’re unsure of the meaning of a word, click or tap on it and the definition will pop up) to additional background information and references and social sharing of your reading.

24-hour bookstore.  Imagine the scenario.  You finish a real page turner of a book at 2am and you really can’t wait to see what happens next.  With eReading, a few clicks later you can be reading the sequel, often by 2.01am.  Also, if you’re anxiously waiting for that hot, new release by your favourite author, most new release books are released at 12am PST (in Canada) and delivered automatically to your device at that time if you pre-order.  Of course, if you’re trying to watch your book budget, that Buy Now button can be more of a con…

Millions of free books.  That’s correct.  Thanks to efforts like Project Gutenberg, there are millions of legally available free ebooks for your ereading pleasure.   

Free ebooks on Amazon
Free ebooks on Kobo 
Free ebooks on Sony 

Your books are backed up by the store.  If anything happens to your eReader, you can rest assured that you have not lost your entire library.  Simply log back into the store and redownload them.

You’re renting not buying.  When you “buy” an ebook, you’re actually buying a licence to read that ebook on your devices, not an actual ebook.  This means that, in theory, it’s easier to lose access to your entire library if, say, your ebook provider goes out of business.

Read eBooks cannot be resold, donated or regifted.  Linked to the above, the licence you buy cannot be resold, donated or regifted to another person, at least not at this point.  This may be a deal breaker for some of you who like to share your reading material with others.  Amazon Kindle customers in the United States do have limited options to lend Kindle books to others, but this is highly restricted by the publishers and usually allows only one loan per ebook, and on very select titles.

DRM is a pain in the neck.  DRM – or digital rights management –  is software applied to ebooks to prevent your illegally sharing them or changing their format.  It locks the ebook to a specific format and sometimes account and device.  It means, for example, that you cannot read a Kindle book on a Kobo eReader and vice versa.  There is no way to legally convert the ebook to make this possible.  

eReaders and devices are more fragile than paperbacks.  If you drop a paperback in the bath, you’re only out $7 or so.  That cost is considerably more if you drop your eReader…

These are what I see as the pros and cons.  It is really your personal preference if any of these are deallbreakers for you.

I like to borrow my books from a library.  I can’t do that with eBooks, can I?
Certainly you can!  Let me refer you to my post on borrowing eBooks.

I need a specialised eReader, don’t I?
Not at all.  If you have a computer, smartphone or tablet you can get started on eReading.  You would need to download an application.  Many are linked to a specific eBook store.  Here are some of the most popular.

AmazonKoboSonyBarnes & NobleApple

There are other, more general applications, but if you are new to eReading, I would recommend you begin with one of the major providers.

You may also prefer to start off with a free application to see if ereading is for you before investing in a dedicated eReader.

OK, I’m interested.  How do I get started with eReading?
Excellent!  The first thing you would need to do is choose an ebook provider.  I would recommend you try some of the free ebooks from one or two providers to see which one best suits your needs and is best for you.  

Here are links to the main stores (for Canada):


In each case the steps are very much the same.

  1. go to the site for your preferred ebook store
  2. register for an account if you don’t already have one (look for a sign in or register link)
  3. download the application for your computer, smartphone and/or tablet
  4. sign in to the application with the store account
  5. browse the store for a book you’d like to buy
  6. add to cart and go through the payment process.  
  7. in the ereading application look for a “sync” function to have the book downloaded to the application if it doesn’t appear there automatically

And there you have it – your first ebook.  Congratulations!

Which dedicated eReader should I go for?
This is a very personal decision.  It really depends on what you want and what is important to you.  Please check out my eReader reviews for some suggestions or please feel free to get in touch with me if you have more specific questions. 

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