Using an E-reader to Improve My Reading With MS

Ever since I was a young child, one of my most enduring passions has been reading. Even after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, reading was an integral part of my life (in fact, David Lander’s Fall Down Laughing: How Squiggy Caught Multiple Sclerosis and Didn't Tell Nobody, came out around the time I was diagnosed and was massively helpful to me).

Issues with reading caused by MS

However, as time went on and my disease progressed, I began to have a lot of cognitive issues. Several of these have had a major impact on my ability to read. As reading became more difficult, it turned one of my favorite hobbies into something painful and depressing.

In recent months, though, I have made some huge strides when it comes to reading that I attribute to me finally making the switch to an e-reader. Since many of us are always looking for tips and gadgets to help us alleviate our symptoms, I thought I’d take some time to discuss my new favorite tool.

What is an e-reader?

An e-reader is an electronic device dedicated to reading electronic books, magazines, and newspapers. They are often a size between a tablet and smartphone and allow users to download and store what they want to read. The most popular brand of e-reader (and the one I use) is the Kindle by Amazon.

Making the change

Despite being a very technologically savvy guy, I resisted the e-reader craze for many years. I’ve always enjoyed having physical books. Being able to hold them, smell them, and display them on the shelf. I’ve even prided myself on my collection. In short, I really romanticized physical, in-person books. That said, I enjoy reading books much more than holding them, so I was ready to try just about anything if it gave me a chance to read a bit better.

Some issues I started noticing

One issue I started noticing with physical books was that different font faces, font sizes, page sizes, the color of the page, and even the shape and size of the book were starting to have a negative effect on me. There were some books I gave up on because some of those factors made it uncomfortable for me. I noticed that the books I had fewer problems with were of a certain size with particular fonts. When a book didn’t look right to me, I’d have to reread more, would lose my place more often, and forgot what I read a lot of the time. Switching books would be extremely uncomfortable as well: my brain couldn’t handle the switch if the font, page size, and other factors didn’t look the same. Consistency and familiarity are so very important when it comes to MS, even when it comes to reading.

Benefits of an e-reader for MS

So, as you might already be realizing, an e-reader really helps with a lot of those issues.

  • It’s lightweight, easy to hold, and waterproof. Which, for someone with hand weakness and spasms, makes a massive difference (there are also various items you can attach to it, like a strap or popsocket to make holding it even easier).
  • It allows me to have the same font face, font size, brightness, margins, line spacing, and page size for everything I read (and I can increase and decrease those whenever I want). So it’s extremely customizable and always consistent. I should also point out that it’s not like looking at a computer screen, it actually looks like you are reading ink on a page.
  • Another great feature is that if I forget what a word means, I can simply double click it and a definition will appear.
  • I can also highlight sentences and words as I go and come back to them easily, which helps if it’s something I think I’ll forget and need to remember later.  All of that is easily done with a few finger strokes.
  • It has audio services integrated into it, meaning that you can be reading a book and then quickly switch to the audio version of a book (if it exists) and back again with ease.
  • Using the e-reader also means I don’t have to travel to a store or wait for a delivery to read something, I simply download it when I want it. You can, of course, buy books. However, there are many free options as well. In the case of the Kindle, Amazon has a large number of free ebooks, you can check out and download ebooks from your local library, and you can access most public domain works via services like Project Gutenberg, all without ever leaving your house. So while a good e-reader can be pricey, you can save money (as well as time and effort) in other ways because of it.

A necessary tool

Since I started using an e-reader, I’ve noticed my reading ability has improved. Is it like it was years ago? No, but it has still improved greatly. I still forget things, get confused, and lose my place at times, but not nearly as much as I had been. There are a lot of situations with MS where you maybe can’t quite fix a symptom, but you can give yourself the best possible chance at success by eliminating the problems that you can. An e-reader does that for me by allowing me to have a consistent and customizable experience for each book that I read. I now look at an e-reader the same way I look at a cane, a necessary tool to help me fight a particular problem that I have because of MS.

Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share! As always, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!

Devin

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