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You Can, But You Won’t

E-Readers Are OK, but Smart Phones Are Not

E-Readers Are OK, but Smart Phones Are Not

Once I saw a website somewhere about all the devices that smart phones will render obsolete. On the list were e-readers, such as Kindle and Nook. I do not believe, however, that people with smart phones will be reading Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (in seven volumes) anytime soon. I do not even think that they will be reading many shorter books, such as 10 Haikus for the Next Millennium.

Just because you can read books on a smart phone does not mean that you will ever want to. There are four reasons for this:

  • You can only see so many words on a page. Excessive page-turning will render the reading experience too clumsy.
  • If your device is backlit, it will bother your eyes to read for any length of time. E-book readers like Nook and Kindles use a technology that does not glare at you.
  • People past a certain age (and I am already there) have trouble reading words on small screens.
  • Smart phones are so small that the reading experience is psychologically different from cradling a physical book in your hands.

I remember when Gutenberg and other websites put the complete texts of thousands of books online. In the last ten years, I have succeeded in reading only one book online: Sir Richard F. Burton’s Falconry in the Valley of the Indus. It is a relatively short book, and I can tell you it was a real chore, what with the glareback from my monitor. I believe this may also be a problem on iPads and other pad devices.

Over the years, I have long suspected that those people staring at their cellphone screens while walking are probably not reading Moby Dick.


3 thoughts on “You Can, But You Won’t

  1. i am not a great fan of electric readers, either, but i must admit(i have a jet mini) that the books i like(old ones, mostly) are only available on Gutenberg or similar venues. i try not to use it very often, though, it hurts my eyes after a while…

  2. I think this is true by and large, but personally do most of my reading quite happily using the Kindle app on my large Samsung phone. I find that by choosing a beige background I cool the glare considerably. I love the classics, and treasure the fact that many of my favorites are in my pocket at all times. Also fond of being able to use a dictionary so easily. Your mileage may vary.

    I’m very fond of your blog!

    • Thanks, Jane. I read 12-14 books a month, so my comfort is important. I read 3-4 books a month on Kindle, but have trouble reading on a small screen.

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