There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book on a rainy day (if the monsoons will ever deign to arrive). However, that creature comfort comes at a cost. Not to us, but to the environment. That chunk of paper you’re curling up with was once a part of a very happy tree in a very happy forest. With so much of green cover disappearing, we have to perhaps think of taking our books into the digital age.
One may argue that there is something amazing about feeling the rich grain of paper under your fingers. Plus, there’s nothing like a good collection of books attached to all your fond memories; possibly some with notes in them, some gifted by relatives and friends. Not to mention, constantly staring at a screen with a backlight is not good for the eyes.
Now, what if we told you that there is way you can bake your cake and eat it too? Going digital does not mean you have to give up on books. Just get the books that matter to you. Rather than having the nth pulp fiction paperback lying around to attract moths, you can purchase those in digital.
Reading on smartphones and tablets, we agree, can be a bit tiring on the eyes. However, there are apps that offset that. If you own an Apple device, like an iPhone or iPad, you can turn on Night Shift mode, which engages a soothing yellow cast. And most e-readers have night modes that you can switch to, to conserve battery.
For those voracious readers who love the feel of paper, there are devices made on special Electronic Ink (e-Ink) displays, like the Kindle Paperwhite, which feels and reads a lot like paper. It’s perfect for devouring your books under any light and it gives you the feel of paper. Plus, no more turning pages, or finding the paragraph you left off at.
iPads, phones, and Android tablets with high-density coloured screens aren’t only useful for reading books.
You can also subscribe to all your magazines for much less than their news-stand prices. With that, you get never-aging digital copies, plus you can bookmark your favourite home makeover ideas, scrapbook them, save recipes to Evernote or your gallery, and sync them to your phone, so that while shopping you can have that information readily available. E-books are also weightless, which means you can carry an entire library without any extra baggage or storage space at home. You can read anywhere, annotate, save quotes, and actively scrapbook from all your favourite magazines.
Going digital also means getting your copy of an international book on launch day without waiting for delivery. The cherry on top of this digital cake is that e-books cost a fraction of the cover price. The biggest cost is the tablet, but considering good tablets start at about Rs. 6,000, including the low-end Kindle, it is a worthy buy. Or you can read it on your smartphone screen or listen to an audiobook.
Let us look at apps that help you go digital faster
Everything is readily available on the Apple App store, the biggest collection of books on the iBooks store, major magazine publishers on Apple Newstand, and also latest Indian and international releases.
The Google ecosystem
Google also has its Play store, which has an equally massive collection of books, movies, magazines, apps, games and more. Buy once, and you can read on all the devices associated with your Google account. The prices are fantastic and you get several national and international releases.
Zinio and Magster
These are the biggest apps for magazine aficionados. You can subscribe from a massive selection with the biggest brands and access both Indian and international editions. Zinio is superior, with a better user interface and design. Its offline sync mode allows you to read even while you’re travelling in a low network area. Magster looks a bit dated, but has a larger collection of magazines. Both have the ability to share and save clippings.
The app has a large collection of popular and independent magazines, including digital-only publications. Its interface is fantastic and is perfect if you want to publish your own magazine. And a lot of magazines are free.
Though not a reading app, Evernote is the perfect tool if you want to save snippets from magazines and books and share and access them across devices. So you can just access your Evernote app rather than search through reams of paper for a piece.
Amazon Kindle App
The e-commerce giant’s heart has always been in books and now it has one of the largest book collections out there. It’s best experienced on Kindle devices, but you can download the app on your smartphone and enjoy one of the biggest book stores out there.
Audiobooks have come a long way, and Audible has the biggest collection. They are a bit more expensive and heavier (in file size terms) than e-books, but are read out by seasoned actors, who do an excellent job.
ComixOlogy, Marvel, DC
ComixOlogy is an Amazon comic store with a massive selection of comics and graphic novels. You can use Marvel’s or DC’s comic stores to read the latest issues. Reading comics on your phone may be a bit of a chore, which is why we recommend a nice large tablet — over seven inches — to be able to truly enjoy the art in each panel.
You don’t need to be stuck to your platform’s ecosystem; you can be free to chose whatever apps you get the best prices and collection from. There’s Nook, Aldiko, Kobo Books, Marvin and Scribd with amazing user interfaces and cool reading features.
Also, in this new digital age, a lot of writers choose to give away their books for free, or sell them on their own sites, or on self-publishing and independent sites. If you get any of these formats, you can read them in apps like Moon+ Reader, NeoSoar, KyBook or Universal Book reader.
We urge you, though, to buy and support the artists and writers, and not pirate, so that they can eat and write more great books.
Happy reading, folks!
The author is a freelance writer