What Is Electronic Reading?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2019
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Electronic reading is any type of reading done using a portable digital device known as an electronic reader, or e-reader. As of late 2011, a number of book retailers and electronics manufacturers offer devices for electronic reading, and users can load these devices with reading material such as novels, textbooks, newspapers, and magazines. Advantages of electronic reading include the ability to store a large number of texts on a single, lightweight device and to access new texts instantly. On the downside, e-readers require charging, may present display issues, cannot be used during certain parts of air travel, and are not always compatible with every electronic text.

A variety of electronic reading devices exist, each which varies in its features and appearance. In general, however, e-readers are lightweight enough to be held in the hands for significant periods of time, and small enough that they can be easily tucked into a purse or briefcase. These devices are designed to offer an experience similar to that of reading a paper text while affording assorted features that cannot be provided by a traditional book, such as Internet capability and a paper-free status.


The front panel of most readers is taken up primarily by a screen which displays text that has been loaded onto the reader. During an electronic reading session, the user views a digital version of his chosen text on his reader’s display screen one page at a time, and turns pages by pressing a button or in some cases by tapping his reader’s screen. Most readers “bookmark” the user’s progress so that in subsequent sessions he can immediately begin reading from his previous endpoint.

There are several advantages to electronic reading as opposed to reading paper texts. First of all, most e-readers can store hundreds or even thousands of books, magazines, newspapers, and other texts, thus making them significantly more space-friendly than paper texts. The compact size of most readers also means that electronic reading can be easier on the wrists than traditional reading. Further, electronic texts are normally accessed via the Internet, meaning that e-reader users can acquire new texts in minutes. If the user’s e-reader has Internet capabilities, he can even download texts directly onto his device from any physical location with an available network.

It is important to note that electronic reading also has certain disadvantages. First of all, e-readers are generally equipped with either a monochromatic screen that lacks backlighting or a computer-style LCD screen. This first type of screen requires external lighting in dark conditions, while the second type is difficult to see in very bright conditions, and may cause eyestrain with prolonged use. Further, e-readers are powered by batteries that must be charged intermittently, and they generally cannot be used during the takeoff and landing portions of air travel. Finally, publishers have yet to establish a standard format for electronic texts, and consequently most e-texts are only compatible with certain e-readers.


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