I've been reading books on hand-held, mobile computing devices (formerly Palm Pilots, now a Pocket PC that doubles as a cell phone) since around 1996. I was an early adopter (read: new toy lover) of the Palm, and was doing all kinds of weird (at the time) stuff on it: calendar, contacts, to-do lists, games, etc. A good friend ("Hi, Bill!") told me that he was also reading books on his. Mostly free ones downloaded from the Gutenberg Project.
"You read books on your Palm?" I asked. Tetris was one thing... but reading whole books?
"Sure," he told me. "It takes some getting used to is all."
"How much getting used to?"
"The first book you read on that small screen will make you feel like your eyes are bleeding all the time. Each page is a chore and a terror. If you push your way through, you'll wish you'd never tried. But the second book... about half way through you'll realize you're not thinking about it. And then it will just be another way to read."
Bill was right. The first book was pure torture. But by the end of the second... I was hooked. It's so much easier to read books when you're already carrying them around on your portable device of choice. I now do about a third of my reading on my mobile.
I bring this up today because of news from several sources about a new offering from Vodafone, in which the mobile operator will sell eBooks and eAudiobooks directly to its customers for download onto their phones.
Which in turn reminded me of this story from the Sidney Morning Herald from last December, which talks about how half of the top selling books in Japan at the time were written on mobile phones. You read that right -- not just sold and read on phones, but actually texted into existance on they tiny keypads. As the Herald story points out:
Remarkably, half of Japan's top-10 selling works of fiction in the first six months of the year were composed the same way - on the tiny handset of a mobile phone. They sold an average of 400,000 copies. By August, the president of Goma Books, Masayoshi Yoshino, was declaring in a manifesto that he was determined "to establish this not simply as a fad, but as a new kind of culture".
That's a lot of readin' and writin' happening on the go.