The Future of Reading

26 Jan 2009 // books

I've just read (or should I say iRead) my first eBook on my iPhone and I'm feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, this is the future of reading. I remember being rather unimpressed the first time I saw the Amazon Kindle being demostrated, it looked flimsy and seemed to be clumsy to use. The Kindle could not possibly be a substitute for the paper book. But in fact, I had missed all the things that made it great.

It wasn't until I bought an iPhone and gorged on the smorgasborg of free apps in the iPhone App store that I got clambered back on the eBook bandwagon. Thanks to the app Stanza, I can transform my high-tech phone into a humble little ebook.

So what's great about reading eBooks on my iPhone? After spending a pleasant hour or so browsing the catalogs through WiFi, I downloaded a dozen classics onto my iPhone, in both English and French. These books are in my phone. Let me repeat that – I carry dozens, possibly hundreds of books with me all the time. This is really quite mind-boggling for someone like me, who often walks around with a backpack of books because I can't decide beforehand what I'd like to read that day, sometimes leading to very bad posture. With eBooks, I don't even need to think about bringing them with me. They're already there.

Bored? Waiting for that flaky friend to show up? Well, I just tap some buttons on my phone, and off I read. It even remembers the last page I was on. And unlike the Kindle, the iPhone has a proper backlit screen – that means I can even read on the stupid shuttle that never turns on the lights at night. Or in some dark alley.

Still it must be said that something is lost reading from my phone. I do miss the feel of paper. Turning pages on the iPhone feels somewhat clunky. It's impossible to scan forwards and backwards through the book. But this is a small price to pay for such conveniences. However, it still took me a while to get fully comfortable reading from an electronic device. So I suggest that the first eBook you read be a short one. Pick a classic, so you can download it for free. Choose something aphoristic, so you can pick it up and put it down easily. Just like the first book I ever read on my iPhone, Sun Tzu's "The Art of War"