What’s the Best Way to Read Books in 2016?

Harry Guinness 23-09-2016

Good news, people! The publishing industry isn’t doomed after all! All of those filthy millennials These Kanye Fans Don't Know Who Paul McCartney Is, And That's Okay Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney collaborated on a new track. You'll totally believe what happened next. Read More who wouldn’t know literature if Charles Dickens chased them down the street lobbing first editions of War and Peace at them while reading The Complete Works of Shakespeare haven’t managed to kill it yet. The rumors of its death were greatly exaggerated. In fact, things are looking up.


According to the Pew Research Center, things are pretty okay in the book world. The total number of Americans who have read a book in the past year has fallen from 74 percent in 2012 to… 73% in 2016. That’s not bad.

But even with that tiny downward blip in overall reader numbers, everything else looks pretty good. Last year, bookstores saw a 2.5 percent increase in sales, the first since 2007.

More surprisingly, the humble book is staying strong. 65 percent of Americans reported reading an actual, physical, printed-words-on-sheets-of-paper book in both 2012 and 2016. Despite their best efforts (and my fervent wishes Books Suck: Why I Love My Kindle More Than Dead Trees Modern e-readers hold thousands of novels, weigh next to nothing, have built in lights, and don't give you a concussion when they hit your nose. Read More ) the Kindle and other e-readers haven’t managed to put paid to the printed word. The share of readers who have read an ebook has only risen slightly from 23 percent to 28 percent.

The biggest winners, though, have been phones and tablets. Pew claims that the “share of ebook readers on tablets has more than tripled since 2011 and the number of readers on phones has more than doubled over that time.”

Clearly reading is still a pretty popular pastime (even with all the binge-watchable shows Finished Stranger Things? 8 TV Shows to Watch Next on Netflix What’s a Stranger Things fan to do when they have watched every episode and another season isn’t due out anytime soon? Below are 8 TV shows you should watch next on Netflix. Read More available on Netflix and other streaming services Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Which Should You Choose? It has been years since we've compared heavy-hitting streaming services, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. And with changes in pricing, content, quality, and interface, we thought it was time to revisit the topic. Read More ). People are just doing it on a wider range of devices than ever before. So, with that in mind, let’s look at the best ways to read a book in 2016!


Amazon Kindle

Hipster Man Reading Amazon Kindle

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a fan of the Amazon Kindle. It’s affordable, well made, has a battery that lasts for days, is super easy to travel with, and is just an all-round awesome device Which Kindle Device Should You Buy? A Comparison Guide There are four different Kindle e-readers available to buy for various kinds of users. But which Kindle device is right for you? Read More . I read too many books and am regularly traveling in places where it’s impossible to buy the physical versions in English for me to use anything else. This is just one of the many viable reasons to buy a Kindle Why You Should Buy a Kindle (Even If You Love Real Books) Here are several reasons why you should buy a Kindle, even if you love "real" printed books. Read More , even if you gravitate towards real books.

The Kindle’s e-ink screen is as good as they come, but it’s still a black and white screen with a low refresh rate, and illustrations and images simply don’t work.

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The Kindle Store has some issues What's Wrong With the Kindle Store? Everything. The Kindle Store is the largest eBook retailer on the face of the planet, with over 4.6 million titles. However, cracks are appearing, and it's not clear Amazon will be able to paper over them. Read More , but it’s still the largest ebook store in the world. There’s a lot of self-published work of dubious quality 5 Reasons a Kindle Unlimited Subscription Isn't Worth Your Money A subscription service for Kindle ebooks sounds great, but Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription isn't worth the money. Here's why. Read More padding out the numbers but, if a book’s available as an ebook, the odds are it’s available for the Kindle.


  • A stellar reading device.
  • Can hold hundreds of books in one lightweight package.
  • Syncs with Kindle Apps on other devices.
  • Amazon has the best ebook ecosystem by far.


  • Not actually a book.
  • Doesn’t smell like a book.
  • You’re locked into Amazon’s ecosystem.
  • Can only display the colors gray and slightly less gray.

Actual Books

Woman Reading an Actual Book on Desk
Image Credit: Alexander Lyubavin via Flickr

As I mentioned at the top of this article, physical books are the number one way people read even today. They’re basically the Windows XP of reading devices: deeply entrenched, backwards-compatible, and destined to hang around for decades after they’ve been made obsolete.

While I might not personally be a big fan, I can understand why some people prefer them. Reading an actual book is a tactile experience that an e-reader simply cannot replicate. Bookshops are basically what happens when all that is good in the world is compressed into one dusty little store. I read maybe one or two physical books a year but even I can’t walk past a bookshop without being drawn inside to just browse.


As well as the smell, the best thing about books (apparently) is that they’re yours. You’re not just borrowing the content The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation Streaming media is convenient, but you're giving up something important: ownership of digital media. Read More . If you want to lend one to a friend, you’re not also lending your entire library. You can even buy and sell them second-hand.


  • Is actually a book.
  • Smells like a book.
  • Universally available.
  • Easy to sell and share.


  • Not remotely waterproof.
  • Not portable in large numbers.
  • People can see you’re reading 50 Shades of Gray on the train.
  • Not a Kindle.

Other E-Readers

Woman Reading Kobo Reader

The Amazon Kindle isn’t the only e-reader out there. Barnes and Noble has the Nook, and Kobo makes some decent models Kobo Aura HD eReader Review and Giveaway Despite Amazon's dominance of the eReader market, some competitors manage to keep their heads above water, and one of these strugglers is Kobo. With an impressive line of five different eReaders, its own bookstore, and... Read More . However, neither has enjoyed the same market success.

Still, there are a few reasons to consider buying a non-Kindle e-reader. You can get features like waterproofing that Amazon doesn’t offer, or buy something at an even lower price point. You aren’t locked into the Kindle Store and, with many of them, you can load EPUB formatted books that you buy from wherever you want.



  • Is an e-reader.
  • Plenty of options available to suit different needs.
  • Most of the benefits of Kindles.
  • Not locked into Amazon’s ecosystem.


  • Not a Kindle or a book.
  • Generally failing in the market so no guarantee the ecosystem will be around for ever.
  • Most of the problems of Kindles.
  • No access to Amazon’s ecosystem.

A Tablet

Tablet Reader Example

Tablets fall in a weird middle ground. For reading text, their LCD screens aren’t a match for an e-reader, but for any content containing color, they blow them away. With all the different apps available they can use any ebook store — including the Kindle Store. For things like comics, technical documents, and PDFs, they’re by far the best device out there.

While you can read anything you like on a tablet, unless it’s filled with colored diagrams, you won’t have the best experience. The bright screen will strain your eyes, wake your partner, and drain the device’s battery in a matter of hours. Most tablets are also far heavier and harder to hold than an e-reader.


  • Can do a lot more than just read books.
  • Awesome for anything with pictures, diagrams, or colors other than gray.
  • Has access to many different ebook stores.
  • You might already have one lying around unused.


  • Bright screens suck for reading text.
  • Battery life not measured in days.
  • Very expensive as a reading device.
  • Not a Kindle or a book.

A Smartphone

iPhone Smartphone

Smartphones, like tablets, are a strange one. In theory, they should be awful. They have almost all the problems of tablets with the added fun of a tiny screen and an even smaller battery.

They do, however, have one massive thing going for them: your phone is always available. Whether you’re sitting in the dentist looking for a distraction or on the train home from work, your phone is with you. The reading experience might suck but the convenience of being able to read anywhere at any time means it can’t be written off. Personally, I prefer to stick to my Instapaper queue, but I can see why some people use them to read books.


  • Your phone is always there. Like, literally always there.
  • Can handle colors other than dark gray and light gray.
  • Has access to many different ebook stores.
  • You don’t need to buy a new device.


  • Try reading a book when Candy Crush is just a click away.
  • Even big phones have a relatively tiny screen.
  • Battery life measured in minutes (fine, hours).
  • Still not a Kindle or a book.

Just Read

There have never been more options available for people who like to read. Physical books aren’t going anywhere fast, e-readers have never been better, and even tablets and phones make competent reading devices. Sure, reading a book or an ebook is going to be nicer than squinting at your phone, but as I said in my love letter to e-readers: it’s not about how you read, it’s all about the book itself. In other words, content is king.

So let that be the takeaway. There are lots of ways to read a book — I’ve looked at the pros and cons of the most popular ones today — so just read. Whether you grab a book off the shelf, download one to your Kindle, or even find one online on your iPhone, just read. Read some more. And never stop reading.

How do you like to read books? Do you find one method more enjoyable than others? Are you a diehard paperback fan or a Kindle convert? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Related topics: Amazon Kindle, Ebooks.

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