eReader as research assistant? You betcha!

eReaders are popping up everywhere – either as stand-alone devices like the Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader or as apps on smart phones and iPads. And, it looks like a lot of people are reading electronic editions of books. Thanks to Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg and Google Books, we also have access to a growing collection of historical publications being digitized as ebooks. We’re finding it’s much more enjoyable to read these journals and histories on our readers than on our computers.

Book NotesAre you aware that many readers include tools which support your research efforts? All the eReader apps I have on my iPad – Barnes & Noble eReader, Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Stanza – include tools for adjusting font size and screen brightness. They also include dictionaries to look up the definition of a highlighted word or phrase. Amazon’s Kindle and B&N’s eReader offer Google and Wikipedia lookups as well. All offer the ability to bookmark content, highlight text and add your own notes. iBooks can copy selected text and Stanza includes the ability to share selected text to Facebook, Twitter or your email application.

One thing missing from most ebooks is the index. First, because “pages” differ from one device or app to another, it’s almost impossible to create an index. Second, thanks to search capabilities built into each reader, it’s not necessary. So, when I find a history of the Battle of Chicamauga in ebook format, I can quickly search and bookmark any references to my great-grandfather or his unit then go back at my leisure to read the details, look for more information online and add my own notes – maybe even point to another reference.

Take a few minutes to get familiar with your reader’s tools. While they may not get much use when reading the novel that’s impossible to put down, they will become very useful when browsing the growing number of historical and biographical content now available. You’ll be surprised to discover your eReader has become an impressive research assistant. You just need to learn how to put its capabilities to work.

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