Many practical players have little patience for chess puzzles of the mate in two, mate in three variety, to say nothing of abominations like helpmates and selfmates and even more extravagant and outre forms of chess composition. Some of those positions seem so improbable they might have been hacked up by a cat.
If that description rings true for you, fear not: endgame studies are a completely different matter. Producing a gamelike position is a virtue, and the brilliant and aesthetic points of a study are characteristically accessible to over the board players. In fact, a number of top-class over the board players have been great study composers, including especially Jan Timman and former world champion Vassily Smyslov. (One of my absolute favorite studies is by Timman, and can be found here (at the end of the article), along with some great background material. White's 5th move is breathtaking.)
Endgame studies aren't just beautiful, they're useful for practical players for two reasons: first, because ideas seen in studies can sometimes be used in games; second, solving them is a great training tool. The renowned trainer Mark Dvoretsky regularly uses them with his students, and top players like Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand have noted their use of studies as part of their training regimen. Lest you think this is a practice reserved only for the world's elite, mere mortals like this blogger engage in it from time to time as well (though not as often as I should), and lower-rated players do too (including my younger self). It's a nice way of combining good old deliberate practice with aesthetic pleasure, as every study worth its salt will have some idea that's beautiful, ingenious, or even funny - and sometimes all of the above.
So that's why one should spend time with endgame studies. And now let's turn to the product at hand, the 5th edition of Harold van der Heijden's endgame study database. The current edition, published just before the new year, has 85,619 endgame studies, more than enough to keep the most ardent and diligent solver busy for a long, long time. The database (downloadable as a PGN file) doesn't just give the positions, the authors, and the solutions; there's a host of other information besides: there's analysis, the place of publication whether the study was sound, whether the study was cooked and who cooked it, and still more. (For more details, see here and especially here.)
The price is 50 Euros, and both for the value and for the work Dr. van der Heijden has put into the database, it's a bargain. If you're an endgame study fan, or are just curious about this world, I very highly recommend this product.