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Serial Reader: Reading Books One Bite at a Time

Serial Reader is a new app that delivers daily chunks of books that can be read in 20 minutes or less to your phone. After a few weeks, I’ve become hooked. It’s perfect for my commute on the subway, while waiting in line for coffee, or while eating my lunch. Books that might seem intimidating on the shelf become easy to tackle when broken up into bite-sized pieces.

Serial Reader (logo)Just to get it out of the way, here’s the fine print. Currently it’s only available for iOS, but a version for Android is on its way. There are two versions of the app: a basic one that is free and a premium version for $2.99. I use the free one, but the premium version lets you sync your books across multiple devices using iCloud, jump ahead to the next chunk without waiting 24 hours, highlight text, and add notes. The app currently offers about 150 books, and they add a handful each week or so. You can also adjust background color and font size on either version of the app.

Now don’t expect to get books that are on the New York Times bestseller lists. We’re talking classic literature here. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of classic genre fiction, and I’ll get to that in a minute. But if you’re like me, and you want to read more entries on those “100 greatest novel” lists, this is an excellent way to do it. It’s hard to get bored if you’re only reading for 10 to 15 minutes, and that quickly filling progress bar is a nice ego boost too.

So the way it works is you pick one or more books and the time for them to arrive. The first portion will arrive immediately and then every day after that. I chose Pride and Prejudice (40 snippets) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (only 29). I set them up to arrive at 8:00 a.m. local time, about 15 minutes before I’m out the door in the morning. The original idea was to read one book in the morning and the other in the evening, but I’ve often finished both before I get to work.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (cover)So on top of my normal reading, I’ll get through a couple more books per month. It’s a nice bonus that has me already looking ahead to my next subscriptions. Maybe Little Women (only 84 issues), Moby Dick (79 snippets), or The Iliad (64 chunks). Heck, War and Peace is only 235 snippets. I’ll have to keep that in mind, come New Year’s resolution time.

And the app makes searching for new books easy. You can search by Most Popular, Added Recently, Long Reads, Short Reads, or categories such as Adventure, Fantasy, Gothic, The High Seas, Horror, Lost Worlds, Retofuturism, Science Fiction, or Thriller. So for fans of this site, there’s everything from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and short stories by Philip K. Dick. And if you’re looking for classic literature, you can also find Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo, Herman Melville, William Shakespeare, and Leo Tolstoy.

I don’t want this to come off like an advertisement instead of a review, so here are some arguments against the app. First, I could just as easily open the Kindle app on my phone instead of Serial Reader. And many of those books are available online for free either through Amazon or Project Gutenberg. But the layout on Serial Reader is very clean, and you don’t have to worry about any weird formatting. And the thing is, I didn’t do this. I don’t know if it’s the small chunks or the little pop-up messages congratulating me on completing today’s snippets or the weekly and all-time progress meters, but I am reading classics now. So point Serial Reader.

The Iliad by UnhumanismSecond, and maybe this is a personal thing, is that I am very particular about my translators. So while I’m glad to see Serial Reader has a big collection of Russian writers, I think I will still pay for the heavily footnoted translators I know and like. In my personal experience, the free translations are often perfectly fine, but there is a difference between them and the top-level ones. If this isn’t an issue for you though, another point for Serial Reader.

We all have those books that we’ve never read (even if sometimes we’ve pretended to have read them, ha). Serial Reader is a great way to start checking those books off. I know while I was in school, I would get through my assigned reading so I could get back to my “fun” reading. But as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate classics again and realize that they are classics for a reason. They are worth my time and attention. And if an app is the thing to get me to read them, I’ll take it (don’t ask me how much more I walk now that I started playing Pokémon Go). So if you’re like me, and you have a few extra minutes each day (protip: every hour of television has approximately 16 minutes of commercials), why not fill them with the classics?

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One Comment

  1. Avatar Kathleen Reynolds says:

    Hey thanks for the Fantasy news and the tip about Serial Reader what a neat little app.It made me want to read a classic. This is my first time here and my hats off to you. Well done.

    Kathleen

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