While the devices mentioned in the November 13th post will help you read a hardcover or paperback book, what about an e-reader?

E-Readers for Low Vision

These lightweight portable devices come with a variety of options for people with limited vision, at a more moderate cost. The two we will look at are the Kindle and the Nook.

KindleVoyage - E-Readers for Low Vision

There are two options here, an e-ink reader (the Paperwhite or the new Voyage), the closest to reading a paper page, or a full-color tablet. The only accessibility options for the e-ink readers are the ability to select a font you find easy to read and the ability to increase the font size. The increase in font size is a big help, but remember, that as you increase the size you will be “turning the page” more often – the screen size is 6” diagonally. The Voyage has a whiter background than the Paperwhite allowing for more contrast. Both include a built-in screen light that can be adjusted to your needs. One thing to note is that while it does have a screen light, it is not a backlit display as you will find in the Fire HDX. This might mean less eye strain.

The Fire HDX is a full-color tablet with quite a few more accessibility options and the screen sizes range from 6” to 8.9”. Since it is a full functioning tablet you can access email, play games, watch videos and a variety of other things. It has more large-font options (that can even be used for your emails), a screen magnifier that is easily activated with a triple tap on the screen and you can pinch to adjust the zoom and the backlit display provides high contrast. There are other options for people that are blind including a screen reader to describe actions taken on your screen, five accessibility shortcut gestures to help you navigate and even Braille support with a free app from the Amazon App Store. Because it is a backlit display you may experience eye strain if you don’t occasionally take reading breaks.

Kindle also has a free accessibility plugin that is downloadable for your Windows PC. It provides the following features: text-to-speech reading, voice-guided menu navigation, large font sizes, high contrast reading mode, keyboard navigation and accessible shortcuts. It is compatible with JAWS, NVDA and Microsoft Narrator.

NookNooik - E-Readers for Low Vision

Nook, like Kindle, has two options. An e-reader called the Nook GlowLight and a full-color tablet called the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook in 7’ and 10.1” sizes. As with the Kindle e-ink reader, the only accessibility options are the font and font size. There is also a built-in light to make the page brighter.

The new full-color tablets now made by Samsung, provide you with the access of a full functioning tablet such as email, playing games, watching videos, etc. The vision accessibility options include screen magnification for the text and pictures, TalkBack which reads aloud menus and on-screen options for navigating the device, negative colors to invert the color of the screen (text that usually appears black on white will be shown white on black), color adjustment if you are color-blind, and a text-to-speech option that will allow you adjust the rate at which text is spoken and your preferred text-to-speech program. Once again, these tablets have backlit screens that may tire your eyes after an extended period of reading, so take breaks.

E-Book Formats

The Kindle and Nook each have their own proprietary book formats, meaning that you can only read a book purchased for the Kindle on a Kindle or a Nook book on a Nook, however EPUB and CBZ formats can be easily transferred to the Nook. This is more important when it comes to borrowing e-books from a library. The EPUB format is more common when e-books are offered; and while some libraries now offer Kindle books, there are more EPUB titles. If you are comfortable with technology, you can use Calibre to convert most formats into whatever format you need.

Choosing between a Kindle and a Nook is based on personal preference. You can try out both devices before you buy them at Best Buy or Staples for the Kindle and at Barnes & Noble stores for the Nook. If you already own an iPad or Android tablet, remember you can also download the free Kindle and Nook apps from the App Store or Google Play.

Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

E-Readers for Low Vision
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