Reading books on your smartphone is bad for the eyes, but good for the brain — Quartz

I go to bookstores to sniff out books. When I want to read one, I pick up my phone.

And I’m not alone, at least on this second part. In a 2014 survey of 2,000 people, Nielsen found that 54% of book buyers (paywall) used their smartphone to read books at least some of the time, up from 24% two years earlier. In the first quarter of 2015, 14% of book buyers read principally on their phones, up from 9% in 2012.

My own conversion is quite recent. For the first 10 years of my adult life, I bought and hoarded paperbacks as if preparing for nuclear winter. Even after Kindle, my book to ebook ratio hovered between 60/40 and 40/60. In the end, it took 10 years of iPhones to develop one I might love to read a novel about: the 7 Plus, which has a 5.5-inch screen. But the transition was worth the wait; I find myself settling at an unexpected 10/90.

If you’re hesitant to leave your own book (or e-reader) at home, here are some arguments in favor of turning your iPhone into a personal library.

Your phone is already your BFF

Like an organ I didn’t know I had, my phone is always with me. It’s on my desk at work, in my pocket at restaurants, on the bar table, and on the treadmill at the gym. When I watch TV, it’s in my line of sight, and when I go to bed, it’s arm’s length away. On my crowded morning commutes, I have just enough room to hold it in front of my face, and if I ever get stuck in an elevator, it’ll be there to distract me while I wait for help.

I know my phone codependency is unhealthy, makes me blind, Why am I single, and illegal in France. But always having my phone means always having a book handy during downtime. I’m a fast reader, and even a 10-minute window is enough to progress through a novel or enjoy a few pages of non-fiction. Even better, I feel less disgusted with my overall phone usage if at least some of that time is spent on books.

You turn the page more often

There’s a reason the phrase “turning the page” is synonymous with forward momentum: making measurable progress in a book is one of the world’s most satisfying commonplaces. The physical experience of reading on a smartphone screen can still have room for improvementbut smaller screens mean a ground to turn the page.

What you read stays in your thoughts

Ever since I committed to reading on my phone, everything I read in regards to is still on the tip of my tongue. Being immersed in a book tends to give me story ideas, and I’ve bored countless dinner parties with arcane facts and unsolicited literary analysis. Thanks to my pocket e-reader, I find myself thinking more often about the books I’m reading, making more connections between different books, and seeing more parallels between books and current events. I feel exactly like Algernon in Flowers for Algiers... which, of course, did not end well.

It’s the best way to discover more books

A book is like a hydra to me: each one sends me on an esoteric research mission that often ends up wanting to read at least three more. While it may not be the most sensible habit, it’s one that reading on the phone makes easier. Many e-reader apps (including Kindle, which I use) allow for highlighting and annotation, and eBooks often include detailed indexes, making it easy to take notes and return to them later. Add that to everything a smartphone already has to offer. While I love spending a quiet afternoon with a paperback, I also love being able to check a character’s background, read a Wikipedia article on 18th century crofting, do a Google image search for “flaughter” and added three more books to my Amazon wishlist. – while lying on my couch, using only my left hand.

It’s actually when I have to put down a book to look up something on my phone that I suddenly find myself knee-deep in “Carpool Karaoke” episodes on YouTube, with no memory of the last 38 minutes.

You can always eliminate distractions

When I To do I want to get lost in a novel, I often find myself so immersed in it that I completely forget that I’m reading on my phone. Literally, more than once while reading, I thought “I should check my phone” before remembering that it’s the thing in my hand.

In the end, no matter where I read a book – in my bed, on my sofa, or pressed against the doors of a crowded subway train – the real world will beep and buzz in my life. If I’m really into a story, I could ignore those beckoning interruptions. Which, after all, has always been the hallmark of a book’s success.

About Marcia G. Hussain

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