Why Smartphones Have the E-Reader Advantage

The advantages of smartphones over dedicated e-readers like Amazon's Kindle

I'm a big fan of ebooks. I was a fan of the idea of reading on a digital device back in the nineties before such things were cool. In the nineties, I read out of print books on a laptop, a Palm OS powered Handspring Visor, and a BlackBerry. At the time, out of print books were the only options.

In 1996, before most people had even discovered the Internet, I bought a used PowerBook Duo (Apple's first foray into the sub-notebook market and an early pre-cursor to the MacBook Air) and loaded it with classics for my mom while she was recuperating from abdominal surgery.

Needless to say, the explosion of the e-book reader market has been something of a delight to me. The Kindle, Nook, Kobo Reader, and iPad all bring e-books to anyone anywhere. I love the concept of these devices – I own an iPad and I'm planning to give multiple family members a Kindle or a Nook for Christmas this year (haven't quite decided which device is best for a couple of relatives yet). But, dedicated e-readers and tablet devices aren't my preferred way to read books.

My favorite e-reader is my iPhone. Much like the devices I read from in the nineties, the iPhone has one crucial advantage – it's always with me. Yes, the Kindle, Nook, and iPad are all extremely portable. My iPad is great when I travel (books, movies, apps – all good things on a train from upstate New York to the city or on a plane), but I didn't have it with me last month when I was waiting for a flu shot, or when I met a colleague for coffee last week, or when I'm being green and taking a bus rather than driving (which I try to do as often as possible). But my iPhone was in my pocket each of those times.

Perhaps what's more important (and where Amazon and Barnes & Noble were brilliant in their approach to the Kindle) was that I had access to more than Apple's iBook store. With the iBooks, Kindle, and Nook apps, I had a broad range of options and prices at my fingertips. In fact, Leatherbound offers a way to find the best prices on e-books from all three stores.

And that's the advantage that a smartphone (be it an iPhone, Android phone, or BlackBerry) has over dedicated devices like the Kindle or Nook. You have access to a lot more sources (books, magazines, Wikipedia, the entire Internet) and chances are that you always have it with you. And it's why I may be giving e-readers to my non-smartphone-owning family (my father thinks anything beyond calling is too much to have in a phone), but I'm sticking with my iPhone as my main way of reading.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfass.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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