Smartphone as an eReader?

With all this talk of eReaders, the Kindle Fire and it’s rivals and the iPad .. there isn’t a lot being said about those of us who read on our smartphones. I had a quick look at our statistics, and during a month, we get a few thousand mobile visits. And while I recognize that a portion of that number is quite possibly tablet related, there is no doubt an equal number are from smartphones as well.

The fact is that if you have a smartphone, it’s the one thing that goes with you just about everywhere you go. Almost as important as your wallet and your keys, the smartphone has become a fixture.

Personally, I have found myself with a spare minute here or there (at a doctor’s office, in line at the supermarket, waiting for the train to pass, etc.) where having a smartphone has proved a convenient time filler. Services that provide for cross-device syncing make this kind of reading even more convenient because you can read on your eReader at home and pick up on your smartphone when you’re out.

A little mobile reading history

The first time I came across reading electronic books was back in 2004 or 2005 when PDAs had become popular. iPAQs were the newest craze and everybody was getting apps and games – not unlike how it is now with iOS and Android smartphones.

Yet apps for the HP iPAQ, if I remember correctly, were a completely different matter altogether – especially for reading eBooks. eBooks then were mostly PDF versions of physical books and so one only really needed a PDF viewer on your PDA in order to read.

Formatting was a big problem because a lot of these books were pre-edited versions (with typos and formatting anomalies) or scanned versions (illegal and sometimes inferiorly scanned). The eBook itself just hadn’t matured enough to provide a wider selection of eBooks through regular channels.

While eBooks and eReaders have been around for more than a decade, the whole eBook experience never quite matured until Amazon launched their Kindle in 2007. A full year after Sony debuted their own eReader, but never got the airplay that the Kindle did upon launch. Which lends to the speculation that it is not only the eReader but the service that it sits on that makes for a successful product.

The drawbacks of smartphone reading?

It is important to keep in mind that you are reading on a very tiny screen compared to the size of a physical book page or even a computer screen. Even compared to the eReader screens, a smartphone screen is quite small. This lends itself to eye strain and bodily aches and pains as you contort yourself into the most comfortable position to read in.

If you regularly read on your eReader device and there is no syncing service attached, you could end up wasting time trying to find your place again when you return to your eReader. This would probably be more of a minor annoyance than a drawback, but for some people this could be a deal-breaker. Especially when with a physical book you can literally bookmark your page and just open to that spot the next time you want a read.

Also, don’t overlook that it is likely to provide even more of a distraction in todays noisy environment. Stealing a half hour read at the office while the boss isn’t looking or at lunch while you eat, provides for even more of a distraction than ever before.

What do I think?

I think that if you love to read as much as I do, then you’re going to do it anyway – despite the potential for distraction or body aches. And while I wouldn’t suggest you shop for a smartphone that caters to your reading affinities best, I wouldn’t tell you to ignore it either.

If you are in the market for a smartphone and you think you might end up reading on your phone, then I’d pay particular attention to whether your smartphone of choice will support your current reading platform.

If you are thinking of getting an eReader that will compliment your smartphone reading, keep in mind whether your eReader will continue to support your smartphone reading.

If you already have both and want to share your experiences, frustrations or something else – please feel free to say so in the comments. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.


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