Of e-reading apps and the mobile phone – by Kiran Manral


Let me confess at the very outset that I am a dinosaur. I love my print and paper with a passion and eschewed all things digital for the longest time. When the e-reading revolution happened and people ran arms outstretched to e-reading devices, I was the one snarling in the corner, saying Over My Dead Body.

The screen I thought, was too small, the light too distracting, the constant notifications from messages too intrusive. And then I had an epiphany. It came during a doctor’s visit. Like all specialists in India. The appointment was just a token number. The actual time we would be ushered into the hallowed presence of the doctor was anybody’s guess.

And so we sat and waited. And waited. I could feel the roots grow out of my rear end pasted to the seat and reach down into the plastic seeking food and water. At one point, I had run out of conversation and was watching the huge screen set on one entire wall which was helpfully set to the channel with a daily soap that the receptionist at the clinic was watching with her jaw half way to her knees.

I fished out my mobile phone as a last refuge to stave me off from immediate boredom and certain death. On an impulse, I downloaded a reading app on the phone. I found an old classic I had long wanted to re-read and settled down to it. When we were called in to see the doctor I almost snarled at them for breaking into my reading.

Somewhere along the line, my resistance to e-reading crumbled and an e-reading device was bought. But I found I ended up rarely using it for the simple reason that it meant one more gadget to be carried along, and one more charger adding weight to the already overloaded handbag. I was only reading from it in the night when I was home, and that I was doing with my beloved print and paper books anyway.

The phone is where I was to be found for the major part of the day. It made complete sense for me to download books on the phone and read them in the various pockets of time one got through the day to fill—in traffic jams, while travelling, while waiting for someone, at a tear-inducingly boring movie that the offspring had dragged one to watch, at an event where one had done one’s hello how are yous and could now retreat to a corner and either snore or read until it was time to leave.

An article in the Wall Street Journal bears me out. It isn’t the e-reader that’s going to be driving book sales. It is the phone reader.

I also found it strangely comforting to be able to hold my phone with one hand and read. An e-reading device was slightly larger than the snug fit of one hand that the phone offered. I found it more convenient to be able to use the same device I use to for my emails and WhatsApp rather than to keep switching devices in the midst of the reading process to check incoming emails and messages.

There are also screen options one can set to reduce eye strain and make it easier to read. Font size can be increased for convenience, something that I find has become an important factor in purchase decision making as I grow older. A print and paper book with too small a font size just doesn’t get picked up by me anymore. I know I will never struggle to read it.

I must confess though that I use phone reading for short bursts of reading. A short story. A book I’ve been trying to finish and never get around to in the regular course of the day. The anytime on the go convenience of being able to search for something one wants wherever one wants is rather tempting; my online library is groaning from unread books.

I so enjoyed reading on the phone, that I did write a few books exclusively for phone e-reading apps. A Boy’s Guide to Growing Up and Switcheroo on Juggernaut.  Saving Maya on Readify. And more to come.

I get asked a lot as to why I took the decision to write for app based readers. I reply, it is because I now enjoy the convenience of reading on my phone. It allows me to read in bits and pieces through the day, anytime anywhere I have my phone with me. I don’t need to consciously take out chunks of time to read.

And I think a lot of readers will agree once they’ve tried reading on the phone.

Vivek RaoOf e-reading apps and the mobile phone – by Kiran Manral


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