Thus declared Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz Venture Capital, in 2012.1 The same year, Hugh McGuire, co-editor of Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto, urged that traditional long-form linear text should yield to shorter passages with hyperlinks.2 In Spring 2012, the Association of American Publishers announced that sales of adult ebooks had surpassed those of adult hard covers. As ereaders and tablets (along with smartphones) continue to record impressive sales,3 and as the march towards online education invites yet more digital texts, reading is increasingly shifting from print to mobile platforms. What is “mobile reading”? The answer isn’t clear-cut. Laptop computers (which
are easily moved from place to place) are mobile in comparison with desktops, so reading on laptops is technically mobile reading. However, it was the appearance of ereaders (starting with the likes of the Rocket eBook in the late 1990s and then popularized by Amazon’s Kindle, introduced in 2007) that led users to associate “mobile reading” with hand-held digital devices. (Obviously, books have been mobile for millennia, but no one speaks of reading a book as “mobile reading.”) Reading on mobile phones has been technically possible since the early 1990s,
when GSM created its short message service (SMS). Practically, though, reading substantial amounts of text only became viable with development of easy access to the Internet, coupled with sharp screen resolution and ample screen real estate. Apple’s iPhone, launched in 2007, proved a game-changer in turning mobile phones into mobile “devices” on which people could read everything from a restaurant review to the New York Times-or a novel, not to mention using its other functionalities. Commercially successful tablet computers (beginning with the iPad in 2010) oﬀered
far more screen space than a mobile phone, plus easy downloading of full-length
books. Tablets (like mobile phones) are multifunctional devices, and for many people have become the platform of choice for mobile reading. Analysts predict that tablet sales will increase at the expense of ereaders.4 As new technologies emerge (perhaps gadgets such as Google Glass), we can anticipate the list of mobile reading platforms will expand. The best deﬁnition of “reading on a mobile device” may therefore be “reading on a digital platform that the user perceives to be easily portable.” This chapter begins by introducing three considerations to keep in mind as we
think about mobile reading:
the relationship between the content expressed and the “container” through which content is conveyed;
physical and cognitive outcomes when reading onscreen versus in print; user reading preferences.