Do you read books from your smartphone or tablet?

Published: March 30, 2012

Ever since the Kindle, ebooks have become the format of choice for readers around the world. With other devices like the Kindle Fire, iPad, Android tablets and various smartphones, reading books electronically is generally more convenient than lugging around extra baggage just so you can read a few pages while in a waiting room or on a layover.

Earlier this week, the Association of American Publishers released its sales figures from January. The numbers told an unsurprising story: revenue from ebook sales is growing rapidly, along with print books, leading to publisher growth. "In January 2011, publishers sold 3.9 million children’s and young adults e-books. One year later, that monthly sales figure is up to a whopping 22.6 million," says Jolie O'Dell of VentureBeat. "For the older set, e-books are also showing huge growth, surging from 66.6 million e-books sold in January 2011 to 99.5 million sold in January 2012."

Paperback and hard cover books, however, are still the highest volume product for publishers. That said, paperbacks only outsold their ebook counterparts by 6 million this time around, and ebook growth (up 73.2 percent from this time last year) is rather substantial. O'Dell says, "if e-book market growth continues, it will have far outpaced paperbacks to become the number-one category for U.S. publishers."

O'Dell also notes that a lot of this growth is likely due in part to the surprising success of the Kindle Fire, which largely contributed to tablet ownership doubling over the holidays. With new iterations of Kindle Fire tablets on the horizon, Apple's iBooks, Barnes & Noble's Nook series, Play Books and a plethora of other ebook commerce really starting to catch on, I imagine this is only the beginning of the growth.

The premise (and hope) is that since such a large portion of this past year's growth has been in the form of children's and young adults' electronic books that young Americans are inspired to read more. My experience with ebooks, however, it's quite a different story, one that many of you can probably relate to.

To date, I've owned three different eReaders: the second-generation Kindle, Kindle Fire and Nook Color. I have also owned more tablets and smartphones that I care to count. With each and every smartphone and tablet I have ever owned, I have downloaded and installed Aldiko Reader and the Kindle app (and Good Reader on iPad) with my heart set on actually getting into the habit of reading again. Like many others, I've definitely been inspired to buy and download more books, mostly due to awesome deals I can't pass up. In the past two years, I imagine I have bought somewhere around 15 or so books on the self-promise that I would finish one – hopefully and eventually all – of them.

In my defense, I have completed one, and only one. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern, which is hilarious and I highly recommend it to anyone who has the nerve and patience to sit through 158 pages of anecdotes of a man with a brutally honest father. I have also started a few other books, like Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and Under the Dome by the legend Stephen King. I have also reached chapter two in a Node.js textbook in an attempt to teach myself a new programming language. I stopped reading all three of those just a few chapters in, solely due to being so busy and, well ... constantly falling asleep or getting distracted while reading.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading almost as much as I like to write. I just have so much else on my plate that it's difficult to find the time to sit down and read a book. I imagine it also has something to do with how grade school taught me to feel about reading – like it's a chore instead of entertainment.

Ideally, though, I would love to use my smartphone and/or tablet to read books to wind down at night, especially since I have so many waiting to be read. But I find reading on a smartphone or tablet, where I actually want to do my reading from, to be nearly impossible. I always start out great. I get 30 or 40 pages in without a hitch. Then someone mentions me on Twitter, I get a Facebook notification, a text message or a nudge from someone on Draw Something. It doesn't matter what it is, if I get a single notification, my concentration on and interest in the book dies immediately. And putting the device on silent or vibrate doesn't help since the notifications are coming into the device I'm using – they will appear in the notification bar and I will check them anyway.

And dedicated eReaders don't help either. I think I used the second-generation Kindle more than either of the other two and I can only remember turning it on no more than 10 times. I don't like having a device dedicated to one, specific task. Plus, I like to do my reading at night, which isn't easy to do with an E Ink display without the aid of a lamp.

The only ebooks I have ever successfully used and read are textbooks from a course I'm taking. Throughout my last calculus course, I would take my tablet to class with me every day and use it to follow along. I've been doing this since my second year of college and it has worked quite well for me. But take me out of the classroom and have me read for leisure and everything starts to fall apart.

That said, I'm interested to hear whether you ladies and gents use your smartphone or tablet for reading. I know a lot of my family members do, and so do a couple of my friends. But I just can't make it happen, no matter how hard I try. What about you all? Do you read from your smartphone or tablet? Or do you use an eReader?

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