Reading ebooks on the iPhone

How often do you read books on your phone? I have to admit, I’ve never really been a huge fan of reading ebooks on the iPhone (“the screen’s too small,” “you have to scroll too much,” etc.) but after my Kindle died on a recent trip, with a long plane ride ahead, the iPhone made a pretty good backup option.

The first place I’d recommend for friends is to visit Wired’s How-to: “Read E-Books on Your iPhone.” It covers all of the basic information you’ll want to know: ebook apps ; where to find ebooks; DRM, and ebook formats on the iPhone.

Speaking terms of ebook apps, I rather like Stanza (visit the Stanza website for the most updated info on the app):

“Far and away the nicest e-book reader for the iPhone, Stanza also happens to be free. Once you install Stanza and download some books (Stanza offers a large library of downloadable books, see below for more sources) reading is just a matter of flicking your fingers down the page.

Stanza also offers the ability to import your own e-books into using a free computer-based app from LexCycle (available for both Windows and Mac). It’s currently a beta, but worked well in our testing. E-books you create are then available for download on your iPhone (or iPod Touch) and computer. Stanza natively reads the ePub e-book format; all other formats are converted to ePub via this application. …

Stanza has an on-line catalog integrated into the reader that offers access to public domain e-books from Feedbooks,, and BookGlutton; downloads of RSS feeds of various newspapers and magazines; and some books or book samples from publishers such as Pan Macmillan or Random House.”

PDFs and iPhone reading are not always a congenial fit. But there are some solutions that can do a halfway decent job. Check out Ricky Opaterny’s experience with GoodReader and the iPhone: “How to read large PDFs — books, articles, etc. — on your iPhone.”

Whichever ebook app(s) you use, the convenience of being able to fit the text to suit your reading needs on something you carry around in your pocket every day is rather an extraordinary luxury to have. Here’s a great perspective on how reading on the iPhone was a vastly improved experience for one dyslexic reader, The Guardian: “My iPhone has revolutionised my reading” —

“So why I had found it easier to read from my iPhone? First, an ordinary page of text is split into about four pages. The spacing seems generous and because of this I don’t get lost on the page. Second, the handset’s brightness makes it easier to take in words. “Many dyslexics have problems with ‘crowding’, where they’re distracted by the words surrounding the word they’re trying to read,” says John Stein, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford University and chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust. “When reading text on a small phone, you’re reducing the crowding effect.”

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And in the interest of thoroughness, here’s this from Mashable: “5 Best iPhone Apps for Reading E-Books.” Somehow, I’ve never tried Wattpad yet.


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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