It wasn’t so long ago that over-sized computer monitors to aid the visually impaired were pretty rare and expensive. I remember seeing such a computer at a library or computer lab once–a device expressly reserved for use by patrons with poor vision.

However, times have changed, and it’s now pretty simple to read ebooks on a big screen television, with nearly no special equipment required (apart from the television). I’m going to go over a couple of the possible ways to do it here.

Phone or Tablet Screen Mirroring

The simplest way to read ebooks on a TV is to invest in a Chromecast, Fire TV stick, or Roku, if you have a compatible smartphone or tablet. For Android users, the Chromecast is probably the best bet. Recent versions of the Android OS have Chromecast mirroring built directly in, accessible from the pull-down icon tray. Devices that don’t have it built in can download Google Home and enable it that way. It even works on Amazon Fire tablets (or at least, Fires that have had the Google Play utilities sideloaded).

Chromecasting my Fire HD 8 to my 50" TV.
Chromecasting my Fire HD 8 to my 50″ TV.

Although many audio and video apps support Google casting, most ebook apps do not. However, that is not an obstacle to using them that way. Mobile devices can also mirror their screen to the television. While the mirroring may not be efficient enough to display streaming video without interruption, it’s definitely good enough for reading static text.

While apps that support Android casting internally can cast to a number of compatible devices, including Rokus and some Blu-ray players, screen mirroring seems largely limited to the Chromecast—so if you want to mirror an Android device, you should get one of those. Once you’ve connected it to your TV, all you need do is configure your phone or tablet to support it, then tap the “cast” icon to hook up.

Then launch your ebook app, and you can read from the TV. Note that you’ll make the most efficient use of the screen by holding your device in landscape orientation, to match the TV screen. The television will show everything your app shows, so you can turn the pages using the device in your hand. If you’re using an app like eReader Prestigio, which maps page turns to the volume buttons, you don’t even have to worry about tapping the screen.

The Fire TV Stick and recent Rokus can also be used for screen mirroring from compatible mobile devices. However, I don’t have direct experience with those.

One drawback to this form of big-screen reading is that you can’t use your phone or tablet for anything else while you’re doing it. But it also doesn’t need a lot of special gear, and you can easily use the app’s interface to navigate.

Desktop Computer Mirroring

The other way to read ebooks on a big screen involves hooking a computer up to your TV and using it as an over-sized monitor. Ever since the advent of HDTVs and HDMI, this has been relatively simple to do, if you have a decent laptop or home theater PC set-up. I’ve been using my battered old laptop as a bare-bones home theater PC myself for the last few months. (Since it has a motherboard short that shuts it down if you move it the slightest amount, that’s about all it’s good for anymore.) However, not everyone has a laptop, or a good way to connect their desktop to a TV without stringing cables across their living room.

However, gaming technology has been keeping pace—though, ironically, I only learned about the device I’m using now as it was on its way out. Valve recently discontinued its Steam Link game and desktop streaming console. It chopped the price to $2.50, and remaining stocks of the device sold out within three days.

Mine finally arrived, and I set it up and have been using it on my big TV downstairs with my computer upstairs for the last couple of days. The set-up process was relatively simple. Once I was finished, I could access the Steam application in a large-format mode suited for TVs—or I could minimize that and have access to my desktop, just as if I was sitting at my computer two flights of stairs away.

The desktop interface works great, and I’ve hardly noticed any lag. I can play my computer games on my TV using Steam’s own controller, or a compatible wireless keyboard and mouse. Or I can watch movies—or I can read ebooks.

Reading ebooks is, of course, just as simple as launching a desktop ereader app such as Amazon Kindle or the browser-based Google Play Books. I can maximize the window, and then use it just as I would on a desktop. But thanks to Steam Link, I can use it on a 50″ screen from across the room. You can make the font pretty big—at its largest, the Kindle app’s Bookerly letters were two inches tall!

The Kindle app for Windows at its largest font size. Forgot your glasses? Don't worry!
The Kindle app for Windows at its largest font size. Forgot your glasses? Don’t worry!

Also, I’m not limited to the keyboard and mouse. Once I’ve got the ebook set up, I can use the directional pad or thumb stick on the controller to page back and forth—so I could simply sit in a comfortable chair with the controller in one hand, and easily flip through pages at the touch of a button.

The Steam Link hardware device is no longer available (new, at least—you can still find it used at any number of places, including Amazon), but there are alternatives. Samsung 4K smart TVs have Steam Link functionality built in, now—which works at 4K, not the 1080P HD of the hardware Steam Link. And the nVidia Shield TV is a $170 desktop-streaming set-top box that also has 4K functionality.

As inexpensive as 4K TVs are these days, those options might be a better bet. I’ll bet ebooks would look great at 4K resolution even on a television.

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