Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reading Devices

During a recent dinner conversation, a couple of my companions said that they do the majority of their reading on their smart phones now. When I expressed surprise (and a bit of dismay) at this, both said that yes, the constant scrolling was annoying, but "you get used to it."

Although I am one of those people who loves print books as objects, and finds the smell and feel of paper to be part of the aesthetic of the reading experience, I am not hostile toward technology. I love my iPad, and in fact I do use it to read on my daily bus commute and when travelling by plane, rather than carrying other reading material with me. However, when at home I still prefer to read a physical book.

I was resistant to the concept of e-readers for some time, and the earliest versions that came out, up through the first Amazon Kindle, had a (to me) unappealing greyscale screen. Dark grey print on a pale grey background doesn't afford enough contrast for me, and my eyes quickly grow tired. Although I didn't initially or primarily buy it as a reading device, I was pleased to find that the iPad's iBooks app features black text on a white background, more closely mirroring the experience of reading print on paper. 

The one case where I prefer the iPad reading experience over print is The New Yorker. The New Yorker's app (free with a subscription) both effectively imitates and enhances the experience of reading the print magazine. The same typeface is used, and there are added bells and whistles such as photo slideshows accompanying articles, video and audio clips, sometimes featuring the authors reading their own works. Having David Sedaris reading his essay to you increases the enjoyment, and it's nice when reading a music article by Sasha Frere-Jones to hear a clip of the artist he's talking about, or to see a segment of a TV show being discussed by Emily Nussbaum. The font in the "Goings on About Town" section has recently been changed to a minuscule size in the print magazine; with the app I can increase it to something more readable for my aging eyes.

I purchased my iPad prior to getting a smart phone, so I don't have the same relationship with my phone that some others have. I primarily use it for actual phone calls and texts, but if I have my iPad handy, and a wireless connection, that's what I'll reach for first to check my email or Facebook. Or to read. 


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