Persistent data is information that can outlive the program that creates it. The majority of complex programs use persistent data: GUI applications need to store user preferences across program invocations, web applications track user movements and orders over long periods of time, etc.
Lightweight persistence is the storage and retrieval of persistent data with little or no work from you, the developer. For example, Java serialization is a form of lightweight persistence because it can be used to persist Java objects directly to a file with very little effort. The capabilities of serialization as a lightweight persistence mechanism pale, however, in comparison to those provided by EJB. The next chapter compares EJB to serialization and other available persistence mechanisms.