Few things in life say “indulgence” like a bunch of good books, a beach blanket and a long afternoon — except, perhaps, sneaking a deliciously bad book somewhere in that pile. But when you’re packing up the beach bag, you may have second thoughts about throwing your expensive e-reader into the mix.
You’re right to hesitate. Sand, surf and sun are good for your soul, but they’re horrible for your technology. Fortunately, there are cases out there to let you bring along your e-library no matter where you’re going.
To find the right one, think carefully about what your needs are. If you have a full-color touchscreen tablet such as the Kindle Fire or Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK — any e-reader you can watch a movie on — then you’ll want something substantial to keep it safe from the elements.
To get full protection, look for cases reminiscent of the shockproof, water-resistant accessories you see for smartphones. A strong case should have two lines of defense: an inner shell to cradle the device itself; and a stronger outer layer of protection, often made of foam. Or if you want to avoid a case altogether, check out the Kobo Aura H2O, a 6.8-touchscreen e-reader that is fully waterproof, according to its maker.
Many durable smartphone case makers, such as OtterBox or Gumdrop’s Drop Tech line, also make cases for tablets. Most are shockproof and should protect against sand. These tend to cost between $50 and $100. They’ll add bulk to your device, of course, but the pressure to have a beach-ready body shouldn’t extend to your tablet, anyway.
If you’re planning on taking an e-reader aboard a boat or floating lounge chair, check to make sure the case is water-resistant before you buy. The key thing to look for is covers for any charging or headphone ports. Those little flaps, if sealed well, will go a long way toward saving your tech if it takes a surprise dunk. They also help with keeping sand away from the inside of your devices. (On the cheap, electrical tape over the ports will work, too.)
For e-ink readers — think Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite or the NOOK GlowLight — there are cheaper options. There’s also a broader market for waterproof covers from companies such as OverBoard and BeachBuoy. These cases, priced between $15 and $30, are like airtight flotation devices to keep your e-reader safe in the event of a water landing.
There’s also the “lifehack” method: a clear, airtight plastic bag. Low-tech? Sure. But it’s cheap and gets the job done. This will work best with e-readers that have physical buttons and/or use e-ink technology rather than a full-color touchscreen. Some readers track movement by detecting screen pressure, while others sense your bare finger touching the screen. A plastic bag should work with both but will interfere more with the bare finger. This is not a “case” that you should stress-test too much, but the clear plastic bag is a pretty good option for people who are more into hanging out near the pool rather than in it.
Regardless of the case you choose, if waterproofing is your primary need, test your case before you head to the beach. The best way to do this is to put a piece of paper in the case and seal it up tight. Then dunk the whole thing under water. If you make it through that test without any wet spots, you’re in good shape.
None of these cases, though, will protect you against the perils of heat and direct sunlight. Heat can cause serious, if often temporary, damage to your devices. This is a greater risk for tablet-like e-readers (and phones, for that matter), but overheating is bad for all electronics.
Keeping your device in the shade is the best defense. Even keeping it under a dry towel or beach chair will help. Or bring an extra cooler with no ice or water in it. If your device overheats, take the case off and let it cool back to room temperature before you fiddle with it again.
And a final tip: No matter what you decide, put your e-reader in its case before you get to the beach. Better yet, do it at home, before you pack and while you’re on dry, solid land.
If your device does get dunked, avoid the temptation to get out the hair dryer. The best thing to do is to be patient, pat the device as dry as you can and let it sit overnight in a bowl of rice or kitty litter to draw out the water. Wait as long as you can to try to turn it back on, for the best chances of a full recovery.