For decades, there have been predictions about the imminent demise of printed books.
In the 1980s, home computers were allegedly leading a generation of young people away from reading, turning them all into Manic Miner and Chase HQ obsessives.
In the 1990s, similar sentiments were expressed about the internet. Why would anyone read a book when they had access to interactive bulletin boards and instant messaging?
Over the last two decades, the impending death of reading has been pre-emptively blamed on tablets, apps, streaming services like Netflix and even ebooks.
(These are electronic versions of printed books and novels, available to view on apps like Kobo, Google Play Books, Libby and Scribd.)
Yet 2019 was the biggest year ever for UK publishing, according to the Publishers Association.
And while print book sales rose to a very healthy £3.5 billion, digital sales weren’t far behind, at £2.8 billion.
There is simply nothing to match the immersive nature of a great fiction or nonfiction book, wherever and however it’s consumed.
The meteoric rise of digital book sales simply reflects a growing enthusiasm for devouring the latest Suzanne Collins or David Walliams novel electronically, rather than on paper.
As such, ebook apps are big business nowadays, with Amazon’s hugely popular Kindle app replicating the proprietary hardware across Android and iOS devices.
However, reading books on a smartphone is best done in certain conditions:
Optimise lighting. A bright light behind the screen can cause eyestrain, while bright light in front of the screen may result in uncomfortable reflections.
Ideally you want a diffused light behind you, or a brighter light to one side beyond your central vision.
Avoid parasitic loads. Attempting to view media files on a mobile device while it’s plugged in effectively draws power through the device without charging it.
This can damage the battery, so ensure the handset has plenty of charge before reading an ebook, whose bright paper-imitating screen consumes a surprising amount of power.
Disable notifications. The immersive nature of reading books on a smartphone is rather spoiled by banal Facebook notifications popping up.
Activating Airplane mode blocks all calls and messages, though it’s not ideal if you’re on call, or waiting for an important IM. Platform-specific notification disabling may be better.
Stick to portrait mode. Most ebook readers automatically rotate as a device turns, but landscape mode is a relatively unnatural method of reading.
Landscape books have traditionally been more expensive to publish than portrait ones, and the latter resembles a more traditional reading experience on a mobile device.
Avoid tapping links. The experience of reading books on a smartphone is augmented by internal hyperlinks to index pages and bibliography notes.
Ensure you don’t accidentally tap these while attempting to ‘turn’ a page, since it can take a few moments to regain your place in the book again.