5 Tips on How to Use Your Smartphone to Read Ebooks

In this article I’d like to share tips on how to use your smartphone as an e-reader. Nobody wants you to read long novels on this decent device. Just the opposite – enjoy its most prominent features: mobility, connectivity and instant access.

Based on my personal experience (I’m reading on an iPhone since late 2008) I’d like to suggest a few tips, tricks and ideas which could turn your smartphone into a great e-reading companion.

There are five areas, which I’ll describe in this post:
– for instant reading – as you always have a phone with you
– for testing applications – you don’t have to buy an iPad to test how Kindle for iOS or Kobo or Nook apps work
– for testing ebookstores – same thing
– for discovering ebooks – you can use twitter as a discovery tool
– for downloading ebooks – you don’t need to have a 3G Kindle as you can download books from a smartphone

According to Gartner, in 2010, worldwide mobile device sales to end users totaled 1.6 billion units, out of which almost 300 million were smartphones.

Only in last year’s fourth quarter mobile phone producers sold 100 million smartphones. For the first time in history smartphones were selling better than PCs.

Moreover, Coda Research predicts that worldwide sales of smartphones will total 2.5 billion units throughout 2010 to 2015. Sales will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 24% by the end of this period.

Unfortunately, most of smartphone owners don’t use them as e-readers. They don’t want to or don’t know how. I covered both subjects in those articles: 8 myths about reading books on a mobile phone and 4 ways to turn your mobile phone into an e-reader.


1. Instant reading

If you already own an e-reader like Kindle or a tablet (iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab), you can extend the number of access points to your books by adding a smartphone.

Major e-bookstores, like Kindle Store, provide their users with a virtual shelf. It means that the book you’re reading can be synced across many devices. It’s usually a matter of downloading a free application.

So if you read Amanda Hocking’s Ascend on your Kindle, you can also have it on your phone. Get the app for your mobile operating system from here, open it on your phone, log in and you’ll see how a book is synced an opens at a last page you were reading on a Kindle.

Having a free app is not a big deal, but it gives an essential benefit: you can always have access to your e-book library, even if you don’t have a Kindle with you.

There are many situations during a day when you have a couple of minutes of spare time: waiting for a bus or in a post office or for a doctor, you name it. Those situations maybe don’t deserve to take the e-reader from home, but your smartphone – you always have it with you.

It’s a fantastic feeling when you know that any time you reach for a smartphone you can use it to read books. Actually a mobile phone can be a great way to extend the number of contacts with a book – all by short reading sessions during a day.

2. Testing applications

The underestimated power of smartphones is that they are great entry and testing devices. If you want to try e-books, it doesn’t mean you have to immediately buy a Kindle to do it. Just get an application for you mobile phone and you’ll learn in short time all the advantages of e-book reading.

Not only Amazon has a number of dedicated e-reading applications for mobile devices: smartphones and tablets. Barnes&Noble, Kobo, Google eBookstore and Sony eBookstore have their apps, as well as many other digital content providers. Those apps serve two purposes: allow you to read e-books and give access to a bookshelf/bookstore.

Standard features of many applications are:

– personalisation of font size and typeface
– themes or backgrounds to choose from
– text highlighting, note taking, bookmarks
– night mode (white/light text on black/dark background)
– dictionary and reference
– access to books stored at your account
– syncing bookmarks and furthest reading locations
– ability to add your own books
– social sharing tools

Some applications, like Kindle or iBooks are also able to play embedded video and audio files. When you choose Kobo, you’ll be amazed with how advanced social reading can be.

Most importantly, you’ll have similar features in an e-reader when you’ll eventually buy one.

3. Testing e-bookstores

When you test the application, in fact you also test an ecosystem it belongs to. So, if you already have and account at Amazon or Barnes&Noble for online purchases of paperbacks and music CDs and videos, you can use the same login to test how many titles of those you’re interested in are available in a digital format.

Every application gives access to an e-bookstore. You’ll usually be redirected to your smartphone’s browser, where a mobile version of e-bookstore’s site should be displayed. You can find a book you want and check its price. What you can also do – and no print book can give that – is to download a free sample. It’s usually between 10 and 30% of a content of a book.

You can get as free downloads as you can, there’s no limit. Use it to learn how it is to read an e-book or to try a specific title you are considering to buy. It’s a very fair offer for a reader and I’m always using it. And I buy more than 50% of the books I try.

4. Discovering books

Mobile browser is one option to discover e-books. But you can also find books using other applications you frequently use: Twitter client and RSS feed reader.

When it comes to Twitter I wrote a separate post about it: Use Twitter to discover and instantly buy Kindle e-books. To make it short – you can find books by searching for special tags like #ebooks, #ebook, #kindle, #kindleapp or a combination with url shorteners like amzn.to.

What is very convenient is the fact, that when you find a book and have an e-reading app like Kindle, you can download it to this app directly from a Twitter link.

Not too many people know that for example Amazon provides a set of RSS feeds to the most popular books. If you frequently use RSS application on you smartphone, you can add feeds of bestsellers, top rated books, new releases and movers&shakers at Kindle Store and constantly enjoy what’s best in e-book world.

5. Downloading books

If you have the e-reading app, you can download a free sample or buy a book, that obvious. But I’d like you to think about one more thing – 3G.

If you plan to buy an e-reader you may want to have a 3G, so that you could buy and sync books wherever you are. Think again. You already have one device with 3G and it’s your smartphone.

Any e-bookstore which offers a cloud bookshelf, and the best example is Amazon, allows you to buy a book from any authorized device.
So you can buy a book with your smartphone on a bus and then, when you’re back at home, you can sync your Kindle via a wi-fi router and start reading it.

I own an iPad without 3G and I’m doing perfectly fine. I use the iPhone as a book downloader any time I find something interesting enough to download a free sample and read a couple of first paragraphs.

• • •

Smartphones are not designed to read e-books and they will never be ultimate e-readers. But they are a great secondary and emergency devices – which many people already own.

What’s your experience in reading on a smartphone? Did you find any special uses, not mentioned above. I’d love to hear your comments.

Originally published at Ebook Friendly

8 Replies to “5 Tips on How to Use Your Smartphone to Read Ebooks”

  1. Never thought I could use a phone as a 3G support for my Kindle. Thanks for the tip.


  2. Maybe it’s good to do something which lists all the benefits in one quick go.


  3. Dziekuje bardzo! Great source, your site. Where are you located, Piotr?


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