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The Rise of Phone Reading (wsj.com)
64 points by T-A on Aug 13, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments

I was previously very anti-phone reading.

The things that have converted me:

- high-res, larger-than 3.5" screen.

- fast page turn, with configurable tap areas

- realizing that reading vertical columns of text is better

- Night-time reading - At night, I can dim the display and enable light, amber colored text on a black background. This combination seems easiest on my eyes and on my sleeping wife. Better contrast and lower brightness levels are better.

- On-the-go, I always have my phone with me, but any other device or a paper book is another thing to carry around.

- Content availability - between ebooks, Pocket, PDF readers (yes, they're cumbersome on the phone), and web access, I have huge amounts of content available.


- Battery life. All that content doesn't do any good if the battery is dead. Reading with a cord trailing out is less comfortable.

- I'd like the display to go dimmer. The kindle paperwhite goes really dim, but cannot invert video, so readability drops with the last few dimness settings.

A big thing for me is for reading when travelling. With a physical book, I have to cart something bigger around with me. Reading on my phone, I don't have to carry anything extra. If I want to abandon one book for a while to read another, it's right there as well.

(the same goes for e-readers)

Apart from > With a physical book, I have to cart something bigger around with me.

I'm a huge fan of phone reading, it's a lot nicer than e-ink screens, IMO.

Besides the points you mentioned, I much prefer the smaller size of phones -- they require much less "eye scan", making it easier to read/process multiple lines simultaneously.

The smaller size is also much more comfortable lying down.

But the biggest difference is AMOLED. If you're going to read at night, AMOLED means that black pixels are completely black without any backlight glow. Don't use LCD screens for night-time reading.

On android, there are many apps available to dim your screen below the lowest setting. I use Twilight.

If my own experience is any indication, this will cause for more eyestrain problems than people realise. My eyes have recovered somewhat only because I made a serious effort to avoid nonessential uses of my smartphone, particularly idle reading. I feel much more physiologically comfortable reading on my Paperwhite or 10" tablet. Size is the primary factor, but so is light, contrast and resolution.

And yes, my vision is properly corrected and prescription current. I didn't expect to end up with long-range glasses, computer glasses (a weaker version of the long-range prescription) AND prescription sunglasses at age 29, but so it goes.

That's what I thought immediately while reading the article.

Frequent reading on a smartphone must be really horrible for the long-term eye health. Especially on smartphone, not a tablet. And as far as I know that is actually the reason for the existance of e-books: the e-ink technology makes reading on them similar to reading a book regarding the eyestrain. So if you read in a well lit environment, you should be okay. And I am not sure you can say that about a smartphone screen.

I have had a Kindle Paperwhite for several years and have been really pleased by my reading experience so far. The only negative for me is that it is sometimes kinda slow in drawing pages (especially during interface navigation), I don't know whether it is caused by slow firmware, hardware or it is just because of the e-ink technology that causes the interface rendering to be slow; this makes me feel that the device is unresponsive sometimes.

It's limitations of the e-ink technology. Ever notice certain page turns are slower? They do a "fast refresh" 5 times, and then on the 6th page turn they do a "full refresh" of the screen to blank the slate and remove any ghosting left from the previous 5 times. Well, I think they have to do the "full refresh" when you're navigating menus.

It's been getting better with each generation of Kindle.

I use a 7" tablet, but I up the font size quite a lot. There's no need to squint when you have a fully dynamic screen that can reflow text.

The problem are the damn static scans of older books. Having to scroll sideways doesn't make for a fun experience.

Moon+ reader has made my phone my ebook reader.

I really wish something would replace PDFs that was much more ereader/phone friendly so I could read technical books on my phone as well. I have tried many PDF reader and the format is just too cumbersome for mobile. (Yeah, I get that is my opinion.)

What would be awesome is if the pdf standard was updated to include multiple page sizes within the same document. What would be even better is if it supported marking soft vs. hard returns, so that automatic reflow would work properly.

The issue is that PDFs are typeset for print. That means things are designed to look best on the paper size such as using serif fonts and avoiding widows, orphans, and rivers. Multiple page sizes would be multiple times the cost. e-books lose all that typesetting and it doesn't always result in the best experience, but HTML/CSS is catching up in that regard.

What I was thinking of is that output to a PDF could still be primarily targeted for print, but have the software generate at least 2 pdf documents, one for letter/A4 size paper, and another that is sized closer to 4x6 with minimal margins. Then use deduplication so that it doesn't make the file size much bigger.

> No one expects phones to replace print books altogether.

I do. I've been reading exclusively on my phone for around two years and couldn't be happier.

Whereas I hate it with a passion. I don't understand how anyone can prefer reading on a phone or kindle, but accept as an axiom that you (for one) do. I respect your choice, please respect mine.

I hate reading on a screen, especially a small one.

Your use of "screen" seems to suggest that you group e-ink displays and lcd displays together. Do you really see no practical difference between the two in reading experience?

A sincere question because I don't enjoy reading on a tablet but a kindle to me in terms of eye strain is identical if not better than a book.

I find both experiences unpleasant, although in different ways. Of course, it may all be enculturation, but the effect is real. When reading e-ink or lcd displays, after a time I just feel compelled to put it down and do something else. When reading a book, I often find that time has just gone, and the only reason to stop is that there is something else that needs doing.

I agree entirely that the convenience of having 6M books at hand and ready to go at a moments notice is phenomenal, and sometimes I succumb to that argument. For me, the medium then just kills reading for pleasure stone dead, and it becomes "read only if you must."

The Kindle is a little weird to me. I have one and I've read a fair amount of books on it, but it's not as pleasant as a paper book.

Books aren't going anywhere in the foreseeable future. You can't pick up the latest bestseller on sale in the supermarket, you can't give your e-books to friends an family when you're done with it. And some simply find them easier or more pleasant to read.

I don't prefer reading on a kindle. But ease of transportation and the expense and speed of international shipping make it compelling anyway.

Phone reading is only for when you're stuck not being at home.

>> I don't understand how anyone can prefer reading on a phone or kindle

Well my phone (Galaxy Note 4, 5.7") is also my ebook reader. I can easily read my favourite books and comics while on the bus.

Kindle is fine, but I don't like to bring lots of gadgets while travelling.

Sure, some folks still prefer the good, old physical books, and so do I, when at home.

I've tried it too. But most of the time, I find myself distracted by the other things I can do in a phone. I read mostly in an e-reader or paper nowadays.

I find I'm slowly converting to doing everything possible on my phone. Screen size and processing power finally hit some sort of magic point for me.

Text entry (and thus coding) is still very sub-optimal, but otherwise...

Elon musk approved =D https://youtu.be/uYpZr1ZoxbA?t=132

Jokes aside, I am fine with reading articles on my phone, but will definitely break out my kindle if I am trying to read a book or anything that will take longer than a period of fifteen minutes or so.

After finally getting my recreational reading up to speed with the Nexus 7 and associated Google Play purchases, I'm left looking for alternative devices capable of making worthwhile use of my accumulated 'library'. The perils of lock-in...

FWIW many ebook devices can be rooted to run android and many of them are already running it, just missing the google additions. It can be done for the Nook, Amazon's LCD tablets, and Kobo devices too. The tricky issue is that the google play books app might not result in the best experience for eink devices.

When I rooted my Nook, the refresh rate was horrid, the eink display would have to constantly flash the screen due to how it worked, and apps mostly had black UIs which didn't look as good. The battery life also went down considerably so there are cons to consider.

Phone reading really clicked with me while reading Infinite Jest. When I occasionally read sections of my hard copy, I found myself wanting to jump between footnotes and text via links and to look up definitions by tapping words.

I am a convert. Having a library that's always with me in my pocket is awesome.

Could this be because large phablets are now fairly standard? Even the iPhone 6 (not plus) would seem monstrous to me a year or more ago, but now is fairly standard. My S4 seems small now.

For me this is something I want to have fixed by really good common user defined CSS - I am fed up with wanting to read 500 words of text, downloading 2MB and having it shrink to 10pts in a slice of five lines between the adverts

I just want the HTML, laid out like instapaper, at 15pts or above.

/surprising rant

I read much much more since I started reading on the phone. Width of the average phone screen matches the width of the newspaper text column, which makes it a very good size for reading. However, one has to be careful to protect the eyes by reducing the screen brightness.

This is why I've been buying larger, AMOLED screen phones for a while. Ideal for fitting in reading on the go and late at night, with pink text on true black.

The iPhone6 has the optimal screen resolution (4.6"), I wouldn't use a larger phone (it wouldn't fit in pockets).

From my experience reading magazines is best on iPad and reading books (with little photos) best on Kindle.

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