My Favorite New Reading Device

I just got a new favorite device for reading onscreen, especially books.
Funny thing is, I didn’t set out in the first place to buy any kind of eBook reading device. I set out to buy a phone. I never thought a device with a typical phone-sized screen would work for reading books – but I love it.

When my telephone landline packed up at the end of last week, and the automated repair system of my telecom provider informed me it would take several days to fix, I decided it was time to cave in and buy a cellphone again.

I’ve had cellphones before, of course, but not for a few years. I got tired of being that available, and carrying yet another device around.

However, not wanting to be totally intelecommunicado (that’s a nice new word!) for that long, I visited the local mall. I looked at all the phones and plumped for the Verizon VX6800 (made by HTC).

I liked the phone. As well as being a stylish phone, it has a slide-out keyboard, great Internet access, and a nice high-res screen.

It’s a Windows Mobile 6 device. So I decided to go ahead and download Microsoft Reader to it. I worked on Reader for a number of years, and I think that despite its shortcomings, once you are actually reading a book it’s the best eBook experience so far.

I’ve surprised myself before with small devices. My previous favorite device for reading eBooks was a Dell Axim 50v PocketPC with a 208ppi screen. With Clearype on it, the text is better than most print.

As a really heavy-duty test, I read the entire 6 volumes of Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” on it. Never mind eBooks – that’s a Black Belt 10th Dan reading test for a paper book, pretty heavy going! If you can read that on a device, you can read anything…

Well, I installed Reader, which includes four weights of the sans serif font, Frutiger Linotype, which my friends and colleagues Mike Duggan and Geraldine Wade had expertly created and hinted.

When we first built Reader for PocketPC, we opted for a sans serif font because a serif font seemed a little too constrained on the small screens of the first PocketPCs, which were around 110ppi.

For reading on a desktop or laptop display, Mike and Geraldine had created a new and great version of the classic Swedish serif face, Berling. Turned out Berling worked great on the high-res screen of the Dell. I haven’t got around to trying it on my new phone yet, but I plan to.

Anyway, I found the phone is perhaps my ideal device for reading books which are almost all or totally text.

You’d think the small screen would be annoying, because you don’t get that much text on it, and so there are a lot of page turns. But since you can turn the pages quickly with your thumb, it’s not intrusive.

I just love the size of this device. It really fits in your pocket. But the best thing of all is, everything I need while on the move is on one small device.

I’m not the only one to realize the benefits of reading books on your cellphone. My longtime colleague and eBook collaborator Mike Cooper recently sent around results of a survey which found that the phone segment was the fastest-growing segment of eBook sales.

I have some thoughts on how to make my new phone even better for reading, so I’m going to work with the Windows Mobile team.


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