Reading for Expats

reading an e-book“Quality of life” involves dozens of items. Some are huge — where you live and work, and who you live with. Some are small — a favorite coffee mug.

I love to read. For me, it’s a quality of life issue. If I couldn’t read, my life would be far less enjoyable and meaningful.

So when we first started talking about living in another country, I knew I had to find a way to feed my reading habit no matter where in the world I found myself.

At that time we had thousands of books in our house. Hardcovers, softcovers, fiction, nonfiction — they were everywhere. Bookshelves overflowed in every room except the kitchen and baths, and we had books in boxes in the garage and overhead storage.

I decided to switch to e-books.

This wasn’t easy for me, but I recognized that the load of physical books created an anchor that would keep me from other things I wanted to do with my life — like move to another country.

I took some baby steps to start.

First, I bought a used Palm Pilot for a small amount, just to use as an e-reader. I wanted to find out whether I could tolerate the electronic reading experience before dropping about $400 on a “real” e-reader. (Yes, that’s what they cost back then. . .)

The Palm Pilot experiment was a success, so I took the plunge and bought a Kindle.

I really like reading on my Kindle, and it’s been a great conversation starter on more than one occasion as people are always curious about it.

My daughter went the other direction and got herself a Nook, which she adores.

I have the Kindle and Nook apps on my computer, and the Kindle app on my smart phone as well. I’m never, ever without something to read.

Amazon’s Kindle

my KindleSince I purchased my first-generation Kindle, they’ve changed a lot and prices have plummeted. You can now buy a good e-reader from Amazon for $79, and a few months ago they came out with their tablet version, the Kindle Fire for $199. There are several models in between as well.

Check out the Kindles here.

How do you know which e-reader will suit you best?

  1. If you’ll be reading mostly books (not newspapers or magazines) for long periods of time (more than half an hour at a stretch), choose one of the e-ink Kindles. They’re much easier on the eyes.
  2. If you want to add to your e-library when you’re outside the US, choose the 3G version. That way you can still download books if you don’t have a wireless connection available.
  3. If you read mostly newspapers and magazines rather than books, choose the Kindle Fire.
  4. If you want to browse the internet or watch movies on the same device, choose the Kindle Fire

Barnes & Noble’s Nook

Nook, Barnes & Noble’s e-reader, is also available in a tablet version as well as the dedicated e-readers.

Here’s information about the Nook.


Another option for enjoying books without holding the physical product is to listen to them. “Books on tape” have been readily available for the past decade or so.

You can listen to them while you’re driving to work, exercising, or doing other things where reading isn’t possible.

Today’s version of the audiobook doesn’t require you to buy a tape, CD or other physical product. Instead, you download the file to your computer and then load it onto your iPod or other MP3 player. is probably the biggest player in the digital audiobooks arena. They claim you can enjoy their books on over 500 devices, and they have about 100,000 titles.

Right now, they’re offering some freebies. Try Audible Now and Get A FREE Audiobook! [aff]


  1. Great article! I got a Kindle about 4 years ago (and still have it) but now do most of my reading on my iPad. I have Kindle for iPad as it has significantly more content than iBooks but also have a free books app, newspaper and magazine subscriptions. I also have an app called Goodreader which is great for loading up documents in pdf format. It also supports annotation. I find it liberating to travel without a big stack of books and my only challenge is ensuring that I remember to charge up my iPad before a trip.

    P.S. My daughter got a Sony e-reader as a gift and its terrible – they have just placed country restrictions on downloading content so not we can access very little of interest for her 🙁

    • Hi Evelyn,

      Tablet computers are excellent reading devices. I still prefer the Kindle with e-ink as I tend to read for long periods of time, but look forward to being able to read some of my favorite magazines once I get a tablet. (You can read newspapers and magazines on the Kindle, but it’s not quite the same . . .)

      Sorry to hear about the Sony. That’s got to be frustrating. Is there any way to get books for it via computer and then transfer them? I know both the Kindle and Nook let you do it with a USB connection.

  2. I’ve got the eReader sorted, Susanna, but I want to know how you dealt with your books. We have the same – tons – and my husband has an overflowing office full – which will come home after he retires. The vast majority I could probably manage to give up if I had to, but I have a couple (at least) of keeper collections and we have almost an equal amount of CDs + my husbands vinyl collection. It would require a huge mindset change to learn to live without all these things. Yep, I know, I may have to do it.

    So please, tell me what you did. (Or point me to the post that you may have made that I missed)

    Very happy for you that you are there and I wish you all the luck in the world. Maybe we’ll meet sometime, somewhere.


    • Oh, Ann, the books were very difficult. Ditto with all the old vinyl records. CDs and DVDs were easy. . .

      Here’s a post I did a while back about the books, you may find it helpful.

      I did keep several boxes of books which are out of print and unlikely to ever find their way into an e-book version. It wasn’t easy — the process of whittling down my books has taken about 3 years of concerted thought and effort.

      Another really difficult item to manage was family photos. I posted about our solution here.

      As to the CDs and DVDs, easy peasy. Every CD got downloaded into iTunes and every DVD was digitized. Why keep the physical item hanging around when digitizing them is so easy?

      As to the huge mindset change — it takes that to move overseas in the first place, so changing your ideas about the “stuff” you can and can’t live without is just another part of the process IMO.

      Thanks for the good wishes. Yes, I’d love to meet IRL some day 🙂


Speak Your Mind


eleven + nine =


Please type the text above: