As an apologist for the physical book, it pains me to write this. I like books. I love the bulky weight, the slowly yellowing pages, the smell (ugh, sorry for the cliché) and the fact that I can look at a stack and remember where and when I read each one. But I found a new love. Now booking over the phone is my best friend.
Since the birth of my son, my life has taken an unexpected turn towards practice. And from a purely pragmatic standpoint, ingesting letters from a heavy cuboid that requires multiple hands to keep reading isn’t.
A phone, on the other hand, is.
First of all, it’s still with me. I can grab it for the hours of repetitive motion needed to put my baby to sleep. I can catch it the few moments I find myself in the bathroom. I can read in the dark, during those rare times when everyone but me is sleeping and the house is quiet.
According to Screen Time, I’ve spent an average of three and a half hours on my phone over the past seven days. In reality, not all of that time will be spent reading, but even if I used three of those hours to read at a very average speed, I could get through the Iliad in three days. If I lost my mind, I could read the entire Harry Potter series in just over three weeks. Or the whole Game of Thrones saga in 39 days (yeah I know it’s called A song of fire and ice, shut up moron).
Then there are the obvious benefits: the phones have adjustable backlighting, a built-in library, readability and accessibility settings, (sometimes) automatic dark mode, search, and best of all, one-page-turn. single hand, should I continue? Ok, most modern phones are also waterproof (to some extent), so reading in the bath no longer requires fiddly maneuvers with strategically placed bath towels nearby.
Finally, there is a less tangible benefit. When you read something compelling, one of those stories you want to spend every free minute reading, the allure of social media and other phone time wasters just disappears.
It’s not even a conscious effort. The success of apps designed to engulf your attention totally depends on there being nothing better to do. And with a good book on your phone, that’s it! With one big caveat from experience: choosing a bad or boring book can actually lead to increased use of social media to procrastinate on reading the boring one – and since you already have the phone in your hand, it’s easier to give up and go to Instagram.
Of course, there are also some disadvantages. A phone screen is often smaller than a book page. On the one hand, that means less text fits on a screen and you’ll be turning pages more often. On the other hand, watch yourself rip those pages! You should be proud of yourself, amazing word eater.
Additionally, a cellulose-based analog page stack will never run out of stacks. A phone can. But it’s also 2019, and you’re never far from a catch, are you? Or may I suggest investing in one of these nifty portable chargers?
And finally, one might look terribly addicted to staring at a phone instead of a book for hours in public places. But who cares what other people think when you’re totally immersed in an amazing sci-fi world? Nobody, who is it.
Practically, I don’t see any other downsides. Except for one huge and glaring issue: ownership.
If you buy a physical book, it belongs to you. You have it and you own it. You can lend it to friends and forget you did. You can re-offer a book you like or dislike. You can burn it and laugh like crazy at the teachings that you deny to the world. You can sell it.
Most e-books you buy online have some form of digital rights management (DRM) that stipulates what you can and can’t do with your e-book. Sometimes you can use an ebook file on multiple reading apps, other times a book is tied to a certain app or device.
DRM and all of its issues are a bit outside the scope of this article, so before I get sucked down this rabbit hole, just say caveat emptor when buying ebooks. Some places offer more reasonable terms than others. We’ll post a better guide on this soon, promise.
I’m still a rookie when it comes to reading books on the phone, but a fellow veteran told me he would buy the physical book if he really liked it. He also told me that he gets both the ebook and the audiobook so he can switch to audio when he can’t read. He is advanced.
This method may be more expensive, but it ticks the nostalgia box when it comes to having a physical copy to look at once in a while, and lugging it around as a tribute to the effort during moving. Either way, reading is good whichever way you choose, maybe reading on your phone will only help you read a little more. which is great!
I ran too long. Reading a book on a phone is fine. If you do not believe me, Project Gutenberg offers DRM-free classic books for free you can download to try it. Apple, Amazon, Kobo and Google also have fairly generous return policiesso if you disagree with me, you can just get your money back.
Nothing stops you! Go ahead and read.