How Mobile Phones Can Extend Our Daily Reading Experience

Photo: Arvind Grover

Reading on mobile phones is a subject of my continued fascination. How to help people read e-books on their phones? What to do to overcome popular prejudices?

Certainly, mobile phones won’t be a primary e-reader for anyone who wants to read more than occasionally, but they can be very useful as a supporting, emergency device. In a couple of days I’ll publish an article with tips on how to effectively use phones for that purpose.

Now, I’d like to share with you a couple of conclusions from an excellent study released by Read It Later in January. The study’s source was 100 million articles saved by Read It Later users across all major web and mobile platforms. The most interesting part is what time during a day users of particular devices are reading articles formerly saved.

The chart below shows articles read on an iPhone.

Source: Read It Later Blog

The data proves what we may have expected: people use their phones “in between”. This can be applied to social media streams, e-mails, text messages, RSS feeds and books.

Mobile phone is a first device we grab after waking up. As you see, a lot of Read It Later articles were “consumed” around 6 A.M. Next two opportunities to read on a phone are at the time spent on commuting to work (8-10 A.M.) and back home (5-7 P.M.). For many people it’s long enough to read not only a couple of articles in Read It Later app, but also a chapter of a Kindle book.

Evening should be the time when people switch to bigger devices: computers, tablets or e-readers – to take a full advantage of bigger screens. However, the data shows that number of articles read between 8 and 10 P.M. is not substantially lower. Let’s compare it to the usage of iPad, which is predictable – we read on it mostly in the evenings:

Source: Read It Later Blog

The obvious part is that we generally read in the evenings, after work, when there is no need to hurry, when we can seat on a sofa and devote 100% of our attention to reading.

What is not so obvious, and I’d like to highlight it as much as I can, is that with mobile phone as an e-reader there is no need to postpone reading until evening. Any time we reach for it (and we are reaching many times a day) this can be done with the intention to read.

Let’s keep in mind that in general we consume the world in a much different way than a couple of years ago. We jump in, stay short, scroll, act, leave. Periods of time spent on a single activity are shorter and shorter. It would be really bad if people stopped reading books just because of the fact they didn’t find an easy (=not time consuming) way to do it.

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