The Digital World of Reading with e-Readers

An e-reader, also known as an e-book reader or e-book device, is a mobile electronic device specifically designed for the purpose of reading digital e-books. Though there may be several different electronic devices capable of reading digital e-books, an e-reader is a specialized device that optimizes the portability, readability, and battery life for reading. In fact, e-readers are optimized for readability in direct sunlight, unlike other digital devices. They are capable of storing the digital version of hundreds of books, with the added convenience of being handheld and lightweight. They are quite similar to tablets, but they do not usually have the same capabilities. While tablets have faster refresh rates and are more versatile, e-readers are optimized primarily for reading texts. Therefore, they have simpler software in order to have a much longer battery life.

Most e-readers use the internet via Wi-Fi and the preloaded software on the device to link to a digital library or e-book sellers. This allows users to either access free books online, and buy or borrow (rent) books. The books are managed in the cloud (internet-based technology where information is stored on servers rather than on the users’ computers), and the e-reader is able to download books from virtually any location. In addition to downloading from the cloud, e-readers are also capable of downloading directly to a computer.

E-books existed long before e-readers were created but were not popular. The problem was that most people did not want to sit in front of their computers and read an e-book. This all changed in 1998 when the Rocket eBook was released. This was mildly popular, but was followed as a revolution in digitizing books. In 1999, an e-book reader called the eBookman was introduced. This e-book reader had the ability to play and record sounds. But, once again, it was only mildly popular. It wasn't until 2007 when Amazon released the Kindle in the United States that e-readers started becoming widespread. The biggest benefit of the Kindle was that it had Wi-Fi capability, and users could purchase books through their Amazon accounts rather than using a credit card each time.

Since 2007, the popularity of the e-reader has exploded. Though 2012 saw a 26% decline in e-reader sales worldwide, the popularity of the e-reader still exists and sales are still strong. The reason for the decline is largely due to the aging customer base (the largest percentage of consumers are the older generation) added to the popularity of tablets which boast all the features of an e-reader plus many more. Some of the most popular e-readers today include Amazon's Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle DX, Barnes & Noble's Nook and Nook Simple Touch, Bookeen, Kobo Touch, Onyx, PocketBook, and Sony Reader.