Saturday, June 15, 2013

Reading a 19th century novel on a 21st century phone

When I first got a Kindle I used it a lot. I was on the tube every day and it was a convenient way to read on a crowded train.

Then I stopped using it except when I was travelling. Just wasn't inspired. At the same time I was discovering the joys of secondhand book shopping.

Now I've bought the Eucalyptus e-reading app. It uses a more readable font than the Kindle and the appealing way it turns pages has been described by Nicholson Baker as "voluptuous". None of the jerkiness of the Kindle.

You have to buy the app but then you get access to 20,000 copyright-free works for nothing. So it's Dickens, Austen, Trollope and so on but not Dan Brown. It downloads them to your phone in a second.

I'm finding shortcomings. Unlike the Kindle it doesn't sync across devices so that you can pick up on your iPad at the same place that you left off on your iPhone. Not all the books listed by the Gutenberg Project are actually available to UK users, thanks to the usual copyright jiggery-pokery.

Nevertheless it's a small joy to use and it's been a great help as I plough through Middlemarch while waiting for the bus. Worth a look.

P.S. I'd tried Middlemarch years ago and given up. Shamed by a Brazilian friend of my son who'd read it at the age of eighteen - in a foreign language - I took it up again recently and enjoyed it. Talented bloke, George.


  1. I happily read a number of books on my iPhone, perhaps 20 or so. Then a couple of years ago, I began Thomas Pynchon's Against The Day. It's a big book and fairly quickly I had the sense as I read it, of running on the spot, of not moving forward at all. It was a strange and fairly unwelcome sensation. I did a bit of searching online and managed to secure a fairly cheap hardback edition of the book on eBay. It was of a size and heft that made my arm ache a little when holding it and it was a distinct challenge to read on a packed tube in the rush hour. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of that, I loved it and have never looked back, would shudder now at the thought of reading anything other than the web electronically. As you say, there's something fundamentally uninspiring about e-reading.

    My kids are just beginning to read adventurously and it's such a pleasure to be able to lend them my some of my favourite books in the actual copies I read them in, my dog-eared Naked Lunch from 30 years ago, my prized Dhalgren and so on.

  2. I got halfway through Anna Karenina on Eucalyptus a few years ago. Half an hour every morning over breakfast, when I was working away from home. It is lovely, but a lost my place and then find it very hard to get back to it. It's not made for iPad and the text looks a bit rough on the iPad when it fits itself to the larger screen. Don't know why they haven't made it for iPad.

  3. I was 'shamed by a Brazilian friend' once ... but that's a whole other story.