Reading on My iPhone: Never Thought I’d Do It and Now I Can’t Stop

A Stephen King thriller or, say, Game of Thrones? Those are perfect for my iPhone - their stories are so engrossing they could be written on toilet paper and I'd keep reading.

We were in the doctor’s waiting room when my friend Laura pulled out her iPhone.

I emitted a less-than-discrete cough and nodded towards the brightly colored “No Talking on Cell Phones!” sign posted above the table overflowing with year-old copies of Mademoiselle and, strangely, Road & Track.

Laura rolled her eyes. “I’m not calling anyone,” she whispered (loudly), “I’m going to read a book.”

“On your phone?” I asked, horrified. “How?”

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“Dude, are you serious?” Laura’s eyes were going to get stuck at the roof of her head if she kept rolling them like that.

She handed me her iPhone, where I saw she had – thanks to the Amazon Kindle app – an open copy of Divergent, one my new favorite YA books.

I frowned. The iPhone claimed Divergent was 634 pages, when I knew it was much closer to half that length. Before I could ask, Laura showed me how I could adjust font size – and thus the number of pages, or, she demonstrated, “finger swipes.”

“Huh.” I had nothing to nice to say. While I loved my iPhone, I had absolutely no interest in reading on it. Getting me to check my email and Facebook on the damn thing was a chore.

I pulled my hardcover copy of Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots out of an already heavy purse and crossed my legs before dutifully flipping to the earmarked page. Silly Laura. iPhones would never replace a good, solid book.

Two weeks later, I was stuck at the airport and I. Was. Bored. My boyfriend’s plane had been delayed. I sat – with countless other less-than-pleased chauffeurs – by Baggage Claim Carousel B waiting for a flight from Boston that just did not want to land. I checked the flight status. I had another ninety minutes to wait.

I had already searched my car – there was no hidden novel. There was no gift shop loaded with mass market paperbacks, there were no words to read. I had no escape. My iPhone glowed mockingly at me. I thought of Laura and groaned. I was going to eat my words.

But first – I was going to read them. I’d been wanting to reread The Shining for a while. I’d loaned my copy out to a friend years ago. A quick re-watch on Halloween weekend of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece had me itching to open it up again.

I checked the eBook price: $3.99. Four dollars for 90 minutes of entertainment? That was money I’d willingly spend. At first, it took me a while to get used to the “swiping” motion necessary for telling a story. When King indented for artistic reasons, the move didn’t really translate on screen.

But something happened about 20 minutes in – I was so engrossed with the story (infinitely better than the movie, by the way, with far more character development – and I love the movie) that I didn’t notice all the swipes. I wasn’t inconvenienced – I was just reading.

Plus, I discovered an added bonus of having a book on my iPhone: later that night after I had picked my boyfriend up and we were lying in bed, I was able to read my book without having to turn on the bedside lamp. The iPhone provided enough light. (Though I’m sure eye doctors everywhere are cringing as I write this.)

Granted, nothing will replace for me the feel of a good book. I take pride in owning a library, in pulling out a physical embodiment of that which I love most: a good story.

But there’s something comforting about knowing that I always have a good story within arm’s reach, even when I forget a book. As long as I have my iPhone, I have freedom.

I can stop for lunch by myself and read. A line at the grocery store? No big. In fact, I find the “pulpier” or more “action-packed” the book, the better it is to just have it be my “iPhone read.”

I’ll shop for literature such as new novels from Donna Tartt and Michael Chabon at my local bookshop. But a Stephen King thriller or, say, Game of Thrones? Those are perfect for my iPhone – their stories are so engrossing they could be written on toilet paper and I’d keep reading.

In the end, Laura and I were both right. iPhones have not replaced the joys of owning good, solid books. But they’ve made my life – and the life of many of my fellow readers – easier.

If I don’t want to carry a heavy load on a plane, I know my iPhone is always an option. If I want to buy something “low brow” that I don’t want to spend $21.99 on but am more than willing to spend $3.99, iPhone it is!

My library is my pride of joy. Now I just have two.

Photo Credit: violetblue/

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About Kira Walton

KIRA WALTON has been stalking books all her life as a college English teacher, bookseller, book club consultant, author, and editor.

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