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In defense of e-reading: reasons to read with Android

What is reading on a smartphone? It's a niggling reminder you're not reading a book; it's the best opportunity in history for people to read more; it's a strain on your eyes; it's convenient and it's complicated. Many refuse to read something as important as a novel on their smartphone, but I believe it is not only worthwhile, but a new window on an age-old pastime.

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The choice does not have to be between only books and only e-reading. / © ANDROIDPIT

Reasons (and refutations of reasons) not to e-read

The complaints surrounding reading on smartphones are few in number, but each is huge and all but universal. Most prefer the feel, the physicality of a book. There's nothing so palpable as turning a page or hearing the spine crack to be found on a smartphone. Certainly, there is no way around this, but there is no perfect way to read, either.

As someone who has moved around a lot in the past few years, taking more than 10 books with me at any one time is a significant inconvenience. Sacrifices have to be made, no matter how you choose to read. Essentially, my argument is that any reading is good reading, and if you have a choice between a reading more on a smartphone or reading less through books, I'd choose the former.

Another common complaint is that smartphones are uncomfortable to read on. The screen is too bright, too small, the scrolling motion too distracting and tiring on the eyes. Even a Kindle is preferable to a smartphone for many, but then the convenience of a smartphone is unparalleled; you have it on you all the time anyway, so why not carry a weightless novel on its internal storage?

It's also easier than ever to adjust your smartphone display to be as comfortable as possible. There are screen dimmers for bed readers, and apps like Moon+ Reader that offer a high level of customization. I've found that a yellow Sans Serif font on a black background works well.

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With an app like Moon+ Reader you can make your phone easier on the eyes. / © ANDROIDPIT
Moon+ Reader Install on Google Play

Our smartphones are insistent, needy little beasts. They feed us a constant stream of notifications, which, for me, at least, mostly see immediate dismissal. All this crying for attention from our smartphones makes it easy to get sidetracked when reading on one. If you're committed to trying e-reading out, make sure you disable all notifications (yes, even WhatsApp) when you're sitting, or lying, down to read. A break in concentration can be fatal to the smartphone reader.

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Being called by friends is a nuisance. Silence them. / © ANDROIDPIT

Reasons to e-read

A recent article over at The Atlantic painted an unusually romantic picture of smartphone reading. It concerns a technological dive into Marcel Proust's sprawling masterstroke, In Search of Lost Time. The author compares reading this 4,000-page opus on his smartphone to navigating a vast ocean without a compass, a voyage in which the smartphone screen becomes "a tiny glass-bottomed boat". 

Reading on a smartphone can be a liberating experience when seen in this way. Cast adrift of a material footing, not knowing where we are as we would in a book just by the feel of the pages between thumb and forefinger in each hand, leaves only the words and the void between them. We are dwarfed by the mystery of what has passed, what is to come and where we are in relation to the whole, and this is a positive thing. 

This untethered experience has the potential to make reading more beguiling and immersive than it has ever been (assuming you do have those notifications disabled).

book swipe
In a way, smartphone reading can liberate us from physical books. / © ANDROIDPIT

More tangibly, reading on a smartphone, if you commit to it and accept its shortcomings, means you will read more. If you can digest a chapter on the train to work, a couple of paragraphs as you wait for your coffee, then why not take advantage of this? Why not join Ahab in his maniacal pursuit of Moby Dick while you enjoy your bimonthly pedicure? 

All these idle moments, usually wasted, can be turned towards a worthwhile pursuit, a voyage away from mundane distractions and into the fantastic. Perhaps one day soon you can finally, at last, tell people you've read War and Peace. There is surely no greater reward than that.

What's more, you can pick up Moby Dick and War and Peace for free over at Project Gutenburg, along with over 50,000 other titles. Then there are cheap options like StoryBundle and Humble Book Bundle, as well as regular offers in the Play Store.

Do you read on your smartphone? If not, have I in any way managed to convince you it might be worth a go? Let me know in the comments.

7 comments

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  • Betsy P. 5 months ago Link to comment

    I rarely pick up an actual book to read anymore. I have a subscription to kindle unlimited and have fallen in love with some amazing indie authors I would not have found otherwise. I also have the kobo app, use scribed, and have numerous links to free online books in my bookmarks and home screen. I love the convenience of being able to immediately access a new book without having to go to a store.

  • Mo Yehia 6 months ago Link to comment

    I prefer reading in a smartphone or tablet, don't have to carry a book around, don't have to worry about the lighting in a place :)

  • Dim the screen (black background is good, for instance) for night-reading. A good audio reader is always appreciated also--what apps are folks using for that?

  • Al38 6 months ago Link to comment

    I have always been an avid reader, mainly of fiction, since childhood, and I love using the Kindle app on my smartphone. I always have access to my latest book(s) - on public transport, in a hospital waiting room, etc. - it's great. A small extra 'bonus' is that if I do happen to come across an unknown word or expression, I can just long press the word and up pops a definition!

  • I generally prefer e-books as they can be read even in pitch black conditions.

  • storm 6 months ago Link to comment

    I've read electronically since the Palm Pilot days.

  • George W. 6 months ago Link to comment

    The two uses other than placing and taking phone calls, are reading entertainment and listening to a variety of great music. I use a lot of news apps and downloads. I'm never bored. There aren't enough hours in the day to read them all. The best use of tech for me.

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