Reading on your Phone

IMG_2384Well, I finally drank the Koolaid recently and plunked down for a smartphone, retiring my five plus year old flip phone with a dying battery. I bought one of the new Samsung Galaxy S6’s and have to say I’m a convert, not entirely to the pleasure of my wife. There really are times I shouldn’t be playing with it! I’m slowly learning to have a time in the evening where I plug it into the charger and turn off the alarms.

One of the things about the new smartphones is the size and resolution of the screens (5.1 inches on the Samsung) that makes reading possible, particularly if the print size is fairly large. And so it was with interest that I read the Wall Street Journal article this past week on “The Rise of Phone Reading“.

I haven’t read any books on my phone yet, although I’ve downloaded the Kindle app, and also the Logos app (Android versions), so that all the content I have on these two applications on my computer, and in the former case, my Kindle reader, is now available on my phone. So far, the main reading on my phone has been email, and checking different social media, much connected with this blog. I also watched a missed episode of The McLaughlin Group, sitting in my driveway on a nice summer evening, streaming it over my wi-fi.

One sign to me that phone reading was gaining in usage was complaints about this blog before I went “responsive” back in April. The print was too small and it didn’t reformat well for the phone. Now it does, as I’ve discovered when I’ve checked out the blog on my phone.

Phones are also changing e-reading habits when it comes to books. The WSJ article indicates that using phones to read at least part of the time has grown from 24 percent in 2012 to 52 percent by the end of 2014. E-reader usage has dropped from 50 to 32 percent and tablet use from 44 to 41 percent in the same period.

The capabilities of the phone make it possible via GPS features to offer books at specific GPS coordinates like airports or train stations and some publishers are offering free access to some books at these locations. Publishers are also re-thinking covers and other formatting issues to make books phone-friendly.

I also discovered that the Goodreads app includes a bar code scanner that automatically enters a new book into your book lists on Goodreads–something you can’t do on the computer version, where you have to search titles or hand enter ISBNs to find your edition in their database.

And people are responding to these phone apps and adaptations. The number exclusively using their phones to read has grown from 9 to 14 percent in the last two years. And one can see the sense in this. I’ve already discovered that I almost always have the phone with me when I’m out, as opposed to print books and e-readers. Already, people have reported reading books like Moby Dick and War and Peace on their phones.

It seems to me, however, that the best type of book to read on this format are books that can be read in “snatches” without losing the continuity necessary for making sense of longer works. Short essays, meditations, “One minute…” kinds of things would seem to especially lend themselves to this format, where one is often reading while waiting for a bus, or a flight.

Interrupted reading is definitely more of an issue in the settings where many read using these devices. One thing that can help is turning off the alarms, which can be very distracting and enticing and put phones at a decided disadvantage to dedicated e-readers. As far as external distractions, they have always been there. If you listen to books on audio via headphones, you can tune some of that out as well.

I can’t speak to how the reading experience compares with e-readers or physical books yet. My hunch is that these, like e-readers are better for light reading than the kinds of things one would read closely. And I have to say that I won’t be using it in the places where I enjoy physical books. But I just might have occasion where I start a book on my phone, when I don’t have my e-reader or it isn’t handy. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, I’d love to know if you’ve seen a change in your reading habits if you’ve acquired a smartphone and what that has been like for you.

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