Reading Books With (Not "On") a Smartphone

My colleagues were right — my smartphone has changed my life.

In the “old days,” once I crawled into bed at the end of the day, that was it. Now I watch a few moments of Al Jazeera on a live network feed before visiting slumber land. If I wake up at 2:37 AM, I no longer just roll over. I check The New York Times for breaking news or Facebook for updates from my friends in Asia. When I wake up, I don’t even bother getting out of bed or finding my glasses. “Let’s see what’s on my phone this morning….”

So, too, has the smartphone made reading and research so much more efficient for me. I used to get irritated when I encountered words or concepts that weren’t familiar to me. I want to understand what I’m reading — while I’m reading it — without feeling the need to return to it later once I’ve done some more research. My smartphone has solved that problem for me.

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Karl Marx, but I haven’t had an occasion to use the word asceticism and have no idea what it means. No problem — I have an iPhone. Aha!

Then I write the definition or concept in the page margins.

And that brings me to my whole point for writing this post in the first place. I still enjoy reading physical copies of books, not digital ones. I like writing in my books. I like having a book in my hands. It’s a much more personal relationship, I think. Books themselves have a story to tell about their existence, and they’re a commodity with real value. They’re traded among friends. Treasured as family heirlooms. Collected in used book stores (the Foreign Book Store, located in Itaewon in Seoul, South Korea, became one of my favorite  places).

There’s something comfortable about books, and that’s why I’ll continue to read them the old fashioned way. And my smartphone will be right there with me, ready to assist.

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