Tips for Parents Wanting an E-Reader for Kids

kid-ipadSummertime, when school is out, is a fantastic opportunity to get more absorbed in reading, both for fun and to exercise those mental muscles that lead to academic success. One of the best ways to encourage summertime reading is to make it cooler, more fun, and more convenient – and that’s why lots of conscientious parents are now busy shopping for an e-reader to give their out-of-school for summer kids.

The Value of Summer Reading

Especially during the summer months, it is critical that school children continue to read. Otherwise, as multiple research studies confirm, students can stagnate in their reading speed and comprehension. Their hard-earned vocabulary from the previous school year can fade away, and they may also miss out on the opportunity to acquire new, higher-level vocabulary. Worse still, young readers whose reading activity slacks off during the summertime can actually backslide and wind up with weaker reading skills by the end of the summer.

Reading Strengthens Young Minds and Kid Confidence

That’s just when they need to have the strongest possible reading and vocabulary capabilities in order to hit the ground running when the new school year begins. Lose that momentum while away from school and it can set you back significantly, both in terms of your academic performance and in terms of self-confidence. A student who stumbles at the start of the semester can easily lose enthusiasm for learning and the ability to keep up with other classmates whose reading-intensive summer weeks enabled them to accelerate to the front of the class.

Kindle for Kids

Parents who are shopping for an e-reader to keep their children engaged in reading have some help from Amazon and the PTA. Amazon’s Kindle department and the National PTA have entered a partnership to promote child literacy, and Amazon also offers a very cool purchase bundle designed just for kids. For about $99 you can buy a “Kindle for Kids Bundle” that includes the latest Kindle plus 2-years of Square Trade Accident Protection. To safeguard children, FreeTime blocks access to browsing and purchasing in the Kindle store, access to the Internet, and access to Wikipedia, and also disables social sharing.

Kindle for Kids includes no sponsored screensavers, which helps clear it of distractions; a kid-friendly protective cover worth $20; and a feature that lets parents set reading goals and then track their progress. Kids can view their reading progress for each book, track reading accomplishments for each day, and earn achievement badges for reaching milestones. You can stimulate vocabulary with programs that offer hints for understanding more advanced words and let you use digital flashcards. The Kindle is lighter than a paperback book, and holds thousands of titles. Also, more than 11,000 libraries in the United States offer Public Library Books for Kindle through their websites.

Convert an Old Tablet to a Kid’s E-Reader

Another option is to give a child a tablet that can be used as an e-reader. If you have a tablet-style computer, you may want to hand it down to your child or just save some money by buying a pre-owned tablet that will serve as your kid’s e-reader. Just make sure that before you give your child any computer gadget that has been used, you clear it of old files that may not be age appropriate. You can reset a tablet to its original factory settings, and that will usually wipe clean the internal hard drive and remove any apps installed on it. Go to the “Settings” menu on the device and look for the option to “Reset.”

Although each tablet will have its own set of tools and configurations, that will usually do the trick. When in doubt, have a computer techie perform that task for you. If you are purchasing reconditioned or used tablets or e-readers from a third party, consider buying from a reputable business versus an individual – and insist that the business professionally clear off old unnecessary files, to make it “kid-friendly,” while leaving intact the basic operating system and other fundamentals – before finalizing the purchase.

Get a Kid-Grade Protective Case

When buying power tools, do-it-yourselfers look for those that are labeled “contractor grade.” Likewise, before you invest your hard-earned money for an electronic gadget for your child, make sure you also line-up a “kid-grade” case that can handle all the bumps, drops, spills, and other challenges that active children put their items through on a daily basis. Of course you won’t find products labeled “kid-proof,” but the idea is to shop around for a case that can handle the task of keeping up with your kid. That typically calls for water resistance and enough rubberized buffering to handle jolts, which also adding some transparent protection to keep the screen from being cracked or irreversibly smudged or stained.

Parental Controls for Tablets

If you use a Kindle Fire or iPad, those have built-in parental controls, so before passing the device along to your child you can activate the controls. There are also apps you buy for various tablet platforms, and you can shop for those in app stores. Just select those from reputable, major app stores, to ensure that they are reliable and free from risks like spyware or computer bugs. You can also find child-friendly web browsers in the Apple app store or at Google Play.

4 Questions to Answer Before Shopping for an E-Reader

shop-791582_960_720What Kind of Screen and E-Ink Do You Want?

Several years ago it was pretty easy to shop for your first e-reader, because the only one available was the Amazon Kindle, which came in only one model or version. Now there are literally dozens of e-reader device to choose from, which can make it harder to know where to begin. But you can simplify your shopping by asking four fundamental questions.

What is Your Budget?

The budget is the first thing to identify, and there are excellent e-readers on the market today that range in price from around $50 to $250, brand new. That’s a huge spread, so figure out what you want to spend and that will help you to eliminate the irrelevant products that are outside of your price range. You can also buy pre-owned and refurbished e-readers, at a deep discount. But when shopping for a used or repaired device there is always the risk that it won’t function as well, or as long, as intended. Only purchase from trusted sellers, and pay close attention to exactly what is included in the sale. The device may be missing a power cord, for instance, that you’ll have to buy separately. Or it could include a protective cover or other accessories that add value.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and that may be true. But you should judge an e-reader by its screen, which is the most important feature for most consumers. That’s because you will be looking at it all the time, and the better the screen quality, the easier it will be on your eyes as you read. Screen quality involves two main characteristics – how the screen is illuminated and how the words on the page appear, which is also referred to as screen resolution. When resolution is high, words are crisp and clear; whereas low-resolution results in a less sharp and distinct image of words on the screen (or graphics, if the book you are reading has pictures or other kinds of images).

Any “e-paper” will be comfortable on your eyes, and the text will look almost indistinguishable from the print in a high-quality printed physical book. E-paper eliminates glare, too. The best way to test the screen, however, is to view it in person. There is no substitute for the actual experience of reading from a particular e-reader Try to visit a store and look at a display model for the best answer to this important question. By the way, if you intend to read e-books and magazine and other materials in color, be sure you shop for e-readers that can display full color. Many readers don’t opt for color because they are reading books such as novels, that have always been traditionally published in black ink on a white or parchment-toned paper. But those who want colorful reading material – like children, for instance – will want to shop for a device that delivers vivid, realistic color.

How Important is Portability?

Of course one of the most compelling reasons to buy an e-reader is that these devices –which are about the size of a single traditional book – allow you to carry a whole library with you, wherever you go. Do you plan to travel with yours far and wide? Or are you more likely to just move it from the kitchen table to the couch, to curl up and read without leaving home? Ask yourself how important portability is, and that will help you narrow down your selections even more. There are some models that weight a pound and fit comfortably in a backpack. Others weigh just a few ounces and can fit in a coat pocket. Depending upon how much size and weight you want to take with you when you go, you can choose the right e-reader that will be an ideal travel companion.

Do You Want to Multitask with Your E-Reader?

Last but most definitely not least, ask yourself if you want to simply use the device for reading, or do you want to do other activities that involve Wi-Fi connectivity. Many of today’s e-readers can also multitask, functioning like tablet computers that enable you to email, surf the Web, watch TV or movies, and more. If that appeals to you, look at the specifications and descriptions of e-readers to find out what multi-purpose functions they offer. Keep in mind that these activities may shorten the battery life and time between charges – so also review the battery data when making this kind of decision.

 

New E-Reader Reviews: The Amazon Kindle Oasis

kindle-oasisWe all look forward to springtime when we can dress lighter and stop lugging around those bulky coats, thick gloves, and heavy boots. Apparently the engineers at Amazon have a case of the spring fever, too. Beginning April 27, 2016, the company that gave the world the first-ever e-reader gadget will begin selling the newest, lightest, and thinnest Kindle ever offered. To keep you updated and help you make smart consumer decisions, here is a sneak preview – and a quick review – of the Kindle Oasis.

Ultimate Portability

  • The Oasis is lighter than a paperback book, tipping the scales at around a skinny quarter-pound or slightly more. The dimensions are approximately 6 inches by 4.8 inches. That makes the Oasis smaller than most paperbacks and only slightly wider and taller than a smartphone – but still large enough for comfortable reading without straining your eyes.
  • An innovative, more ergonomic handgrip puts the center of gravity or balance in the middle of your palm, so you can rest the Oasis in your hand the way you would do the spine of a traditional book. That exquisite balance also makes it easy and comfortable to hold your e-reader with just one hand. The page orientation also automatically rotates to give you the proper view, depending on which hand holds the Oasis.
  • To turn the pages, you can use the touch screen display or the dedicated page turner buttons on the device, which are located on the front of the handgrip. There is also a page-flip feature that lets you skim page-by-page, from chapter to chapter, or to jump right to the end.

Powerful Battery Life

The Oasis also sports the longest Kindle battery life, and it comes with a removable leather charging cover that can help boost the life of the battery. (In addition to the charging cover, each device comes with a USB 2.0 charging cable.) How that works is that the device and cover both charge simultaneously while snapped together and plugged in to a power outlet. When you are unplugged, the cover will automatically recharge the device. The cover attaches with a dozen small magnets, so if you want to really go lightweight you can easily remove it. Amazon also incorporated a new “hibernation mode” that minimizes power consumption whenever your Kindle is inactive.

Crisp Viewing – Even in Sunlight

The display is high-resolution with crisp text on real-looking electronic “paper,” and readability is excellent even in direct sunlight. There’s also a built-in adjustable light for consistently even illumination regardless of lighting conditions. One of the major selling features of the Oasis is that it actually offers 60% more LED lights than previous Kindle versions, and it features a front light that spreads the illumination evenly across the page. That is different from conventional back-lit devices that shine the light in the direction of your eyes, which can produce more eye strain. A micro-etched glass screen reduces glare and also makes the surface of the screen feel like real paper.

The Not-So-Good News

If you like to combine your e-reader with activities like reading and sending emails, texting, or keeping up with friends on social media, that isn’t possible with the Oasis. It was designed exclusively as a reader. Eliminating all those other bells and whistles made it possible to design such a small and exceptionally high-quality e-reader device. (On the plus side, the Oasis is completely wireless, so that you never have to plug it into a computer to download books and other content – which it can download using it own internal Wi-Fi capability. There is also 4 gigs of storage, so you can carry thousands of books on the Oasis.)

Then there is the price, which will likely be a hot-button issue for critics and consumers who feel that it is too steep for such a little gadget. The Oasis is currently priced at $289.00. That’s about $200 more than the highly acclaimed Paperwhite Kindle, for example, which may not be quite as compact and cool but is also not nearly as expensive.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: The Amazon Oasis is a fantastic e-reader, and it literally puts e-books into the palm of your hand. The longer battery life and superior portability due to its size and featherweight design make it the ideal e-reader for Amazon to bring to market at the start of springtime – when so many customers are on the go and want to travel light. But it will become more popular if and when the price drops by a significant amount. Meanwhile, that hefty price tag threatens to undermine the allure of those positive features – and will likely be a weight that drags down sales volume on the weight-conscious Oasis for the time being.

Thing to Know about E-Reader Encryption Security

Combination_lockPrivacy and security are real concerns, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you don’t want strangers to be able to access the e-reader account of your child and find out that child’s personal information. You may have been victimized by credit card data theft or had your financial details stolen, and are careful not to let that happen again through a vulnerable digital device with a subpar firewall and security system. Perhaps you value your own privacy as a constitutional right and want your devices encrypted as a matter of principle.

Amazon’s Controversial Encryption Policy

Whatever your concerns may be, you may have heard that Amazon recently dialed-back the security protections that are built into its tablets. That news came a shock and a disappointment to millions of consumers who use Apple products, and raised valid questions about whether other Apple devices – including Fire and Kindle products – are no longer as safe.

Apple versus the FBI

Apple is the news lately, too, but unfortunately it is not about a cool new consumer product. The tech company in at the center of a furious debate about whether or not to comply with requests from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation to create a way for the FBI to view data locked-down inside the phone of a confirmed mass murderer and terrorist.

Amazon Backtracks

Amazon said it would remove encryption from its Fire tablets months before the battle began between FBI and Amazon, and now it appears to have been resolved in favor or the more robust security encryption provides. Amazon has announced that it is reversing its decision, and will keep encryption technology in its tablets. Apparently the uproar from customers make Amazon rethink its policy in favor of stronger security. By the way, the company explained that the reason it originally thought of doing away with encryption on tablets was because encryption technology costs more, and the company wanted to offer its products less expensively.

Convenience That Doesn’t Sacrifice Secure Privacy

We live in an increasingly digital world where tons of personal and even intimate data and confidential information is stored on portable and other electronic devices. That is super convenient and saves us time and money. But it means that thieves have migrated online and hackers are routinely stealing that data and using it for fraudulent purposes. That’s why technology providers such as Amazon, Apple, and Google reassure consumers that privacy and data  protection is paramount.  Imagine, for instance, that a hacker could break into the storage files of an unprotected device such as the Amazon Echo – which listens to everything said in your living room in order to perform as an electronic virtual assistant. Amazon goes to great lengths to provide technology to prevent that from happening. The same philosophy is behind Apple’s insistence upon maintaining strong encryption on its smart phones.

Why It Matters for E-Reader Users

Why this matters to those who use e-readers is that virtually any electronic device is susceptible to hacking. That is particularly true for devices that are connected to a merchant account where credit card information and other personal data is on file. Maybe a hacker cannot find a way to break into your bank account because the bank is on 24/7 lockdown. But what if that criminal can gather financial information about you from a less secure merchant account through an unprotected digital device like an e-reader? You can be sure they are going to try to exploit that vulnerability.

What You Need to Know

As long as the manufacturer of your e-reader device offers strong security technology, and the vendors you download your e-books from also pay close attention to maintaining powerful security protections, you should have nothing to worry about. But there are steps you can and should also take on your end, as the user of those products.

  • Always use password protection to close and lock your devices when they are not in use. That includes smart phones, tablets, e-readers, and desktop computers. When making purchases online, be sure the merchant’s website is secure and that is security is continually updated.

 

  • There are also some credit card companies that allow cardholders to use an app that generates a temporary, one-time-only credit card number tied to your account. It works just like your regular account number but only one time, so even if it is stolen it has no value.

 

  • Financial loss due to fraudulent use of a credit card is limited to $50, as long as you report any loss or theft of your card. Debit cards have less protection, because those are connected directly to your bank account. So it is better to use a credit card or a prepaid card when shopping online.

Stick Libraries

Another clever way to carry more e-books around securely than you could possibly read is to purchase the innovative USB “stick libraries” sold by Free-eBooks.net, because then you have hundreds of titles you can carry around in your pocket. To read them you don’t even need the Internet, so they are really convenient when you want to read offline or take lots of reading material with you into a remote destination that may not have great Internet service.

Electronic Textbook Study Tips: Get more from a Kindle with this cool feature

The New Kindle TouchKindle was the original e-book reader, and has continued to be the most popular of all dedicated e-reader devices. Today there are lots of versions of Kindle available in a range of prices, and each of them has a variety of interesting features. But most people who own a Kindle are too busy reading to take the time and trouble to delve too deeply into how to use all of the different features. That’s why many students or others who are reading to learn and retain book content don’t leverage the power of the “Flashcard for Textbooks” feature, available with many textbooks, that is outlined below. Discover how to use it and it could make your reading more fun and your study more effective and engaging.

What is Flashcards for Textbooks?

As you probably know from experience, flashcards are a proven tool for testing your memory and people have been using flashcards for generations to help them retain information that might require repeated practice. That’s true with foreign language vocabulary or anatomy, for example, as well as when you want to learn the Periodic Table of Elements, state capitals, or the dates of historic events.

Flashcards – like the ones your teachers may encourage you to use to help memorize material – can now be created in some electronic textbooks that are classified as “Print Replica” versions. If you aren’t familiar with Kindle Print Replica textbooks, they are formatted in a unique ways that gives them the same layout of the printed edition of the books. The pictures or graphs in the old-fashioned print edition of the textbook, in other words, will show up in exactly the same position in the e-book edition you read with your Kindle device.

How to Create Flashcards in Kindle

When reading a textbook in this format you can then activate the flashcard feature to use on Kindle for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The flashcards give you a word and a definition, to drill key concepts and terminologies. While reading, tap the page, and then tap the Flashcard icon.

(Note: From X-Ray, another Kindle feature use the drop-down menu to select the section you want to cover, tap the section title, and then tap the Flashcard icon to add the terms from that page to a new set.)

Editing Your Flashcards

  • To edit your flashcards, tap the Edit icon, enter your changes, and then tap Done. Tap the Switch icon to reverse the order of the information on your Flashcard.

 

  • To delete a Flashcard, tap the Edit icon, tap the Delete icon, and then tap Done.

 

  • To add a Flashcard to a set, tap the set, and then tap the Plus icon. After you enter information for the Flashcard, tap Done to save your new card.

 

  • To delete a whole set of flashcards, tap and hold the Flashcard set, tap Delete, and then tap Yes.

 

  • To rename a set, tap and hold the Flashcard set, tap Rename, type the new name, and then tap Done.

Use Them for Study Review and Memory Drills

Now that you have your flashcards, while you are reading you can simply tap the Flashcard icon, tap the set you want to use, and then to see the other side of the card just tap on it. Did you get it right? If so you can tap and drag the Flashcard into the Correct pile. If not, tap and drag it to the Incorrect pile – so that you can review and study that pile of cards more, until you can get the answers right. To mix it up, tap the Shuffle icon and that will shuffle your flashcards. To put them back in their original order just tap the Refresh icon.