Thrifty Homeschooler: Using eReaders in Your Homeschool

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My name is Maureen and I’m a recovering book snob. There was a day not so long ago when I would pontificate endlessly about how I would never, ever own an eReader. After all, nothing can replace the smell and feel of a real book. Right? I loved my books and I had no intention of betraying them in the name of modernity.

Then I got a Kindle for Christmas. I let go of my prejudices and fell in love. Now, almost two years later, I prefer cuddling up with my Kindle than an old fashioned physical book. Who would’ve ever guessed?

I am now the owner of two Kindles. The second one is for my children. Additionally, I have the free Kindle app on my Mac, the children’s PC, the Samsung tablet, and my iPhone.

I have found that owning an eReader, or downloading the free reading apps available from Kindle or Nook, has many advantages for families. They have enhanced my own homeschool in the following ways:

1. Save Money.

We studied the Ancients last year. Most of the books we read (Odyssey, Iliad, Aeneid, etc.) are available as free eBooks. The price of buying each physical book was considerably more than the Kindle device itself.

The first few days I owned my Kindle, I downloaded almost 100 free eBooks. All classics, and all in the public domain. (Resources for free eBooks can be found at the end of this article.)

2. Save on Back Strain.

My children attend a co-op with other homeschooled children once a week. In the past, the children lugged a backpack full of books. The lightweight Kindle has saved on chiropractor visits as their backpack load has lightened.

3. Save on Eye Strain.

This is only true with eReaders using eInk. According to eye doctors, the non-glare, black-and-white eInk technology used in the basic Kindle is easier on your eyes than print, particularly cheap print found in newspapers (you can purchase magazine and newspaper subscriptions on your eReader). However, eye strain is still a problem with eReaders using a backlit screen and with apps on your computer or smartphone.

4. Save on Space.

I’m running out of space in my house. I have twelve bookshelves. Twelve. If I ask my husband to build another bookshelf for me, he may implode. My Kindle holds up to 1,500 non-illustrated books. If there’s a fire, my physical books may go up in smoke. My eBooks are always there, saved in cyberspace.

5. Making Notes.

Though it still needs some tweaking in my opinion, I can bookmark, highlight, and write in the columns of my e-books.

6. Library Lending.

Kindle, Nook, and other eReaders allow for the borrowing of books through public libraries. Think about the simplicity. You go online, download the library book to your e-reader, and four weeks later you either renew the book or it simply disappears so the next library patron can borrow it.

More on Saving Money and Free eBooks

Remember, you don’t have to buy a Kindle or a Nook to read their e-books. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble offer free apps to read e-books on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

In addition to free reading apps, the Internet has made it easy to find free eBooks. Most books written before 1923 are in the public domain.

The first place to look is the Gutenberg Project, founded in 1971 and run by volunteers. They convert public domain books into a variety of digital formats, including epub and Kindle. At last count, they had over 30,000 titles available for free download.

Other places to find free eBooks (click on title to visit the website):

  • Many Books with 26,000 titles.
  • Open Library to borrow and return over 1 million eBooks for free.
  • Internet Archive has over 2.5 million titles. Their goal is to provide free access to historical documents in digital form.
  • Kindle Classics offers thousands of classics for free, easy download.
  • Christian Classics Ethereal Library is from Calvin College, but loaded with many of the Church Fathers as well as Catholic saints. Free titles are available to read directly on the website or in PDF format, which can also be read on eReaders. Note that CCEL does carry Nook and Kindle formatted eBooks, but charges a fee for them (typically $2.99).
  • Munseys carries rare and hard-to-find books.
  • Baldwin Project offers children’s classics to be read directly on the website. Ignore the purchase price (for the printed version) and go right to the free eBook. I’ve found many favorite homeschool titles here, from Famous Men of Rome to The Odyssey for Boys and Girls.

If you would like to have the ability to read the classics more freely and easily, and are willing to put aside the lovely smell of old, used books, I encourage you to give eBooks a chance.

Copyright 2014 Maureen Wittmann

photo credit: ChrisGoldNY via photopin cc

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2 Comments

  1. I do love reading on tablets, but I’m still a book snob. Why? Because you don’t have perpetual rights to you books. Most books “expire” after a few years. Plus I love looking through the bookshelf to find the books that I need. I love the idea of it, but I mourn the loss of permanently owning a book.

  2. Great list of where to find free ebooks! I am definitely still a book snob, too ;-). My kids got kindles for Christmas but I still have a hard time getting with reading an ebook. I will do it on my iPad some, but it’s not my favorite thing to do. I do love the free books part though and didn’t know about the Catholic site you mentioned. I’m looking for a good place to get inexpensive ebooks for the preteen/young adult crowd. Do the sites you listed have a good selection for that age group that aren’t just classics? Thanks for the post!

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