Do you eRead?

When people ask if I’m a big reader I usually say not, because typically I assume they mean novels and stories and I just don’t read many of those. However, there are two topics on which I read constantly. One is of course technology, primarily software tech. If you know me, you know I’m a computer geek so that’s no surprise. The other is the Bible and books about it. I am committed to its central character and find the topic totally engrossing. So I do read quite a lot, just not necessarily what I assume most people mean when they ask.

Scott Hanselman blogged that he now reads more than ever because of the Amazon Kindle. When you read, do you use an e-book reader? I didn’t for a long time. For one thing I’ve found the Kindle to be lacking when it comes to technical books. My wife has one and she loves it for reading her books, but when I’ve tried to use it with technical books it just doesn’t work. It’s hard to pin down why, exactly, but I think the screen size is a factor and the lack of color can be a problem depending on the material. It turns out that since I do most of my technical reading during the day anyway, I end up just reading while I’m on the computer working. The computer screen doesn’t seem to bother me – I still absorb the material all the same. But it isn’t the same as curling up on the couch with a book. And that brings me to my second category of reading.

I tried a few times to read the Bible on our Kindle. It didn’t work. One of the big challenges with e-Ink screens is slow refresh rates, and the Kindle, though it has improved with each iteration, is still pretty slow to update the image. That’s not a big deal when reading a book front to back, but when I read the Bible I’m flipping constantly back and forth. That type of reading is not front to back, it’s almost haphazard at times and I need to be able to move quickly from book to book, chapter to chapter, and verse to verse. The Kindle just simply cannot do that. And then there were iPhones.

As strange as it seems, I found it much easier to read the bible on the iPhone than on Kindle. There’s an impressive platform called YouVersion (by LifeChurch.tv) which has made multiple translations available for free, so not only can I flip around between books but I can also flip between translations without losing my place. That’s pretty amazing, but the screen is really too small to read for any length of time, so I still resorted mostly to the DTBs (dead tree books.)

Recently I took a new job with a startup out of California named Subtext. Their mission, in their words, is to put community in the pages of your book. I knew it was a great idea and after getting some background on the company, I couldn’t pass it up. Since their product is an iPad app, working there meant I needed an iPad, so I bought one. And I have to say, having been an iPhone user for almost two years prior to getting an iPad, it’s not really much different. For the most part, I’m happy to do everything on my iPhone that I would do on the iPad – except for one: reading.

When I opened YouVersion’s Bible app on the iPad, it totally stole the show. It’s only been a few weeks and I’ve found that I rarely use a printed Bible anymore. It’s either on the computer or on the iPad or in a pinch, on the iPhone.

Today, I bought Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. Largely because I wanted to read it, but I’ve wanted to read a lot of books I didn’t buy. This one I bought because I want to experience it in Subtext. For me, this is the future of reading. This will get people to read more than they would have otherwise. This changes the game.

I’ve droned on long enough about my history with e-books so I won’t bore you with my take on the app. Fortunately, others have done a better job describing it than I could have anyway. So take a minute and check out Gizmodo’s review of Subtext and if you don’t already have one, pick up an iPad and download Subtext for free. It really is a new way to read.

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