eReaders may make great gifts for booklovers, but to ensure that your family member or friend gets the most out of these devices, look for an eReader
that is easy for them to use. While most young electronics users have no trouble adapting to new technologies, today’s eReaders pose a few inherent difficulties for seniors. eReaders for seniors should take these impediments into account. Consider the following when shopping for an eReader for the elderly.
Easy to Read Screen
Look for an eReader that has high contrast and an easy way to magnify the text on the screen. While there is some debate, eReaders that use eInk, such as the Amazon Kindle, are considered to be the most readable and the most book-like reading experience. The drawback is that Kindles are not backlit, thus they’ll need another light source. However, they are much easier to read in bright sunlight. Some eReaders with capacitive or resistive touchscreens feature zooming via touch gestures, but these may be hard for seniors to pick up. You may want to go with an eReader that allows quick and easy text resizing with the push of a button instead.
eReaders, while certainly slim and portable, still weigh more than your average paperback, and even some hardback books. Those with arthritic hands may have trouble gripping it for hours on end, or balancing it on a knee or in the crook of an elbow. Look for a lightweight eReader that’s less than 12 ounces. For example, the COOL-ER eReader is only 6.3 ounces.
Easy to Sync
An eReader with built-in WiFi or 3G may be more costly, but syncing it with new books is easier. You don’t have to worry about fumbling with cables or reaching around to USB ports. Instead, get an eReader with a built-in book store and show the recipient how to use it.
eReaders can take a toll on eye strain, and for some who have trouble reading text for a long time, an audio playback feature is a great alternative. For example, the Kindle allows you to read the book or have it read to you using an electronic voice. The pacing and intonation may be a bit unnatural, but it is a nice reprieve from squinting at a screen for hours.
eReaders can take abuse—being tossed into beach bags or suitcases, left on nightstands and knocked to the ground or dropped onto the concrete by the pool. This is even more of a liability for readers with weak grips or poor sensitivity in their extremities. Look for a shatterproof eReader or one that is somewhat shock resistant. Capacitive touch screens, for example, are a bad choice since their screens are covered by glass.
eReaders are best when you stop thinking about them like electronic devices and you can treat them more like a book you’d carry with you from place to place. This notion is disrupted by the need to plug it in every night as if it were a cell phone or camcorder. Look for an eReader with an excellent battery life for the most enjoyment.
When shopping for eReaders for seniors, consider the recipient carefully. Which features are important to them? Which physical impairments might they have that could affect their use of the eReader? And how are they likely to use the eReader? With this in mind, you’ll be able to buy a better eReader for your elderly loved one.