Reading Small, Thinking Big


Reading a novel on an iPhone is ludicrous.

Or so I thought.

Until I had a revelation. The same kind of revelation I had when choosing between two physically-large books for a flight, because taking both was simply too much for my carry on. So I put the Kindle app on my iPad and took both. And a few dozen others.

Making the jump from paper to screen for my book reading was manageable. Large visual surface (actually, the iPad has more real estate than most book pages), and even an unexpected perk: no book light needed at night. But still, reading a novel via the Kindle app on my iPhone? It can’t be done.

Until I realized that I read thousands of words every day on my iPhone.

Texts, emails, articles, research, PDFs, Tweets, Facebook, posts, status updates, recipes, directions, lyrics. In fact, I read more on my iPhone than I make phone calls. Conservatively 100 to 1.

So why couldn’t I read a 100,000 word novel on my iPhone?


Once I realized I’ve already read enough text on my iPhone to fill dozens and dozens of books, the argument was over.

And I read a novel.

In the mean time, I found out I’m not alone. In fact, Henrik Berggren, CEO of Readmill, recently presented his findings at a conference in Malmö, Sweden, showing that not only are mobile smart phones the most preferred book reading device in 2013, but they also keep us more engaged in our reading.

“It is not only that they are spending more time reading the books because the screen is smaller. Even taking into account screen size, smartphone users read more often, they finish more books in general, they start more books, they share more quotes, and they write more comments,” says Berggren. “This paints a very clear picture that the people that are most engaged with their books are the people who read on their phones.”

They always say that the best camera is the one you have on you. Which has quickly become the smart phone. Likewise, it would appear the that the “best reading device” is following suit.

Not there yet? Don’t worry.

You will be.

Because my analytics tell me half of my readers are viewing this on their mobile devices right now.


  • Wendy

    Read this on my iPad…. As well as 50 novels this year…

  • Yes, reading on my iPhone. My iPod touch, with identical screen size etc. was my first electronic reading device. I’ve been reading on these smaller screens since 2008 I believe. Definitely 2009. 🙂 I think it comes down to a couple of factors. Some physical and others psychological. The perception of more privacy, the fact that the device is physically lighter, etc.

    • @Shane: I agree. And that’s a cool history! You’re well ahead of the curve.

  • I read this on my phone (Droid). I’ve read several more books than I would normally read for the simple reason that my “free” time is usually when I have my phone with me and not my library shelf. Also with the Kindle app and Kindle Cloud reader I can sync to where I left off on my phone and keep reading to my desktop (at home or where ever I’m online). I don’t have Kindle eReader, but the new Paperwhite looks really nice.

  • John Brainard

    I’ve stopped reading paper almost entirely. Every book I’ve bought in the last year or so has been digital. I even do all my Bible study on my tablet and/or computer.

    • @John: I’m actually with you 100% there. Even my sermon notes are prepared by pasting scriptures and notes into Evernote.

  • I agree. I read mostly on my Kindle, but also on my phone (Kindle app on Droid). It was cumbersome at first, but I find it a much more rewarding pass-time than facecrook or Spades. As far as frequency of sharing what I read, I agree. It’s a quite simple task to post a screen capture of highlighted text to Twitter (which sends it to facecrook and Instagram) and one I employ it often.

  • I’m still a stubborn paper reader. lol I don’t own a kindle, an iPad, or a smart phone. I’m not saying I won’t ever change. Shoot, if someone gave me an iPad, I might just start tomorrow. BUT, and this is a fairly large but, trying to read a novel on a standard smart phone screen sounds nauseating. In a literal sense, actually. Something about the visual acuity on that small screen makes me get a weird kind of vertigo, especially with game apps. For those who can do it, wonderful. The more different places you can read my books, the happier I’ll be. That’s for certain!

    • @Wayne: staring at the small screen was definitely one of the psychological elements I had to overcome. But I suppose the prerequisite of having a smart phone validates my ease of overcoming this issue. I feel for you, as one day the needed leap will be just that—a leap. Or, I could picture you as an old curmudgeon who still uses those “antiquated scrolls” better known as books. Arrrrgh!

  • Dark Bug

    I read on both my iPad and paper. But something about reading books on my iPad—the actual action of reading—throws me off. Personally, I’ll read books on my iPad, but I prefer paper.

    • @DarkBug: I certainly think books have their own valuable esthetic qualities which will be hard to ever reproduce. It’s good that you can have a foot (or an eye?) in both worlds.

  • Rebekah Berthet

    Haha, I just downloaded 3 books into iBooks on my phone…I’m a fan. 🙂

  • “curmudgeon” Yeah…I could do that. That would be very easy for me. Bwah hah hah haaaa!

  • Fetch me my books, boy! And don’t ye be bringing me any a’ that digital poo! Wait, have ye seen my Cheeze Whiz laying around here?

    • @Wayne: First person to ever successfully use ‘cheese whiz’ in a comment on my website since 1998. Gold star!