Kindle Phone App Shockingly Easy, Efficient, Flexible

Reading a whole book on a phone? Certainly not for everyone, but it may have more appeal than you think. Once again, We Try It So you Don’t Have To.

Many reviews of e-reader apps for smartphones carry a conclusion that goes something like: “it’s great for filling up 10-minutes here or there, but I wouldn’t read a whole book on it.”

It’s a sentiment that Amazon probably loves, since it encourages use of the Kindle app as a complement to the Kindle hardware product. And it’s neat–you read to page X on your Kindle device, that’s where the book will be when you open it on your associated smartphone or computer app.

But what if you don’t have a fancy-shmancy Kindle? There are plenty of reasons you may eschew devices designed primarily for e-reading,including:

  • You already blew your electronics budget on a smartphone (Kindle is $139 for the just Wi-Fi version and $189 for the ‘download stuff anywhere’ 3G+Wi-Fi model)
  • The Kindle was out of stock when you got around to purchasing it
  • You believe the aesthetics of reading on paper are unmatched and won’t sully your reading experience
  • You believe that Big Brother will be monitoring–and perhaps altering–your reading experience
  • If you’re an absolutist on either of those last two points, you may as well stop reading. People willing to at least entertain the thought of reading books on phone, read on.

    Is there value in downloading the free app for your phone? And is there value in actually purchasing e-books to read solely on the smartphone?

    One man’s opinion: a resounding YES.

    Before attempting to read books on an Android device, I would have agreed with the “a whole book is too much” theory. In fact, I attempted to read some free downloaded classics and was rather put off by it. Of course, the issue was I really had no interest in reading Kant or Sun Tzu, at least not so much as I thought I would.

    But a surprise $10 gift certificate to Amazon the day before a plane trip prompted me to search the Kindle e-book catalog. I narrowed it to two: Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh, the contents of which are fairly self-evident from the title, and The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, a fantasy novel that reviews indicated would be closer to George R.R. Martin or Glen Cook than most of the drivel that genre is soaked with (I love a great fantasy novel, but efforts to find the good ones are rather needle-in-haystack-ish).

    Being a beverage enthusiast beyond most else, I went for the booze book, but downloaded the preview chapters of Abercombie’s novel for free. I also figured that a reference/recipe sort book like Vintage Spirits would better fit the “reading in smaller bits” dynamic than a narrative.

    So, of course I was wrong. On my travel day, on the airplane with a lap baby in my lap, I started reading books. I found it much easier to read in close quarters a smartphone than a “real book”; using just one hand, turning pages by thumb swipe, I enjoyed Vintage Spirits just fine. But when I switched to the preview of The Blade Itself I became absorbed in the narrative and forgot that I was even reading in a non-standard fashion.

    Once I arrived at my destination, I quickly paid for the whole book, devoured it, and then did the same with each of its two sequels. It’s easy to read on planes, but easy to read anywhere; text size and page color options can help make it easier on your eyes; the built-in back lighting means reading in bed without disturbing a partner with full lamp light. And the phone it something you’re carrying anyway, right? Not to mention that e-book versions are a couple bucks cheaper (some cases even more), and that you don’t have to even have to get out of your chair to order and start reading it, this could be addictive. Ultimately, the easy access could make it expensive if you have poor self control. (I reserved Abercrombie’s next book at the local library. Back to the stone ages until payday).

    RESULT: Give it a whirl.

    After finishing the fantasy trilogy, I dug back into the Spirits book, and the reading is easy. Surprised the heck out of me — and I imagine enough people have Android phones or iPhones that giving it a shot is nearly effortless (especially since some newer Android models, like the Droid 2, come with the Kindle app preloaded). I submit that you should find a book you think you’ll enjoy and order the preview chapters versus trying to experiment with whatever free stuff happens to be around (Sorry, Aesop).


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