cut opinion pages

Sadly, I Like Reading Books on My Phone Now

Photo: Brigitte Sporrer/Getty Images/Cultura RF

When I was a kid I used to read for five or six hours straight without incident, except for having to get up to pee or get a snack, but now I can’t seem to make it more than 20 minutes without falling asleep. I love to read, and I’m very worried about reading enough books before I die, so this bothers me a lot.

Whenever I’ve brought this complaint before others, they usually suggest reading in a less comfortable position, but why would I want to do that? That’s maybe a good tip for the suffering, studying college student, but if I’m reading for fun, I want to be cozy, too. Other advice has included: chewing gum and/or drinking something while reading, getting up for breaks, and reading first thing when I wake up. I’ve tried them all with little success. What has worked, I’m sorry to say, is reading on my phone.

Someone on Twitter told me it’s something about the light your phone gives off, so maybe it’s that, or maybe I’m just hopelessly addicted to my phone like everyone else. But I started reading books on my phone’s Kindle app recently, and I can’t argue with my progress. I like it better than my actual Kindle, which is black-and-white and sort of fuzzy around the font. I can highlight passages in different colors without destroying a physical book, and it also saves me money, because Kindle copies are usually cheaper than hardback.

Much in the spirit of an adult woman with a Disney+ subscription and a lingering fondness for the concept of mix CDs, I have a technological resistance to e-books, and prefer paperbacks for their familiarity as much as the experience they provide. As many others do, I like the smell of the pages and holding my progress in three dimensions. But I can stay up for hours staring at my stupid phone, and I cannot say the same for a paperback book.

I like the idea of having a massive book collection, but as a non-rich New Yorker, it’s not particularly reasonable, space- or money-wise. Plus, there are very, very few books I actually need to reread. Better to save space (and paper, and packaging) by buying the electronic version when I can. I try to support authors financially whenever I can, but you can also rent books from the library to your phone with apps like Libby.

Reading on my phone is not a perfect cure for my drowsiness, which seems to be a condition of aging, and stress, or both. I’ll never again be 14 years old with an insatiable appetite for one more chapter, and that’s sad. But I can approximate that feeling, reading on my phone, in bed, with the lights out, long after I should have gone to sleep.

Sadly, I Like Reading Books on My Phone Now