Little Dorrit on a Little Screen

Ann Kirschner conducts an interesting experiment that I would be interested in conducting myself. She compared the experience of reading Little Dorrit on four platforms: paperback, audiobook, Kindle, and the iPhone. At stake is more than a consumer choice. She asks herself, “Do I love books or do I love reading” In other words, how important are books as culturally significant objects. Are they simply the only possible medium for a rich narrative form, or a symbol in a cultural system that distinguishes between low (TV, movies, rock music) and high (books, films)?

Kirschner’s trial has a surprising conclusion: the iPod is hands down the best reading experience–better than her grad school Penguin edition, and better than the Kindle, which “does almost nothing that an iPhone can’t do better — and most important, the iPhone is always with me.” Besides, Kindles are for oldsters. She says most Kindle readers she knows are above 50 years old, suggesting that the Kindle won’t have a long product life. 

From what I’ve seen–mostly on the CTA–Kindle readers are usually twentysomethings, and E Ink technologies are still relatively new, but Kirschner has a point: it’s all about device convergence, and all about the story.



  1. I have both a Kindle and an iPhone. I’m surprised that she said that she liked reading on and iPhone more than the kindle. The iPhone is OK if you’re reading for short period of time, but the Kindle is more comfortable. It’s easier on the eyes.


  2. I had heard the same thing: that the iPhone wasn’t very comfortable for reading for long periods of time. Maybe she’s a gap reader, like me, meaning that she doesn’t get many chances to sit down for an extended period of time with a book. My issue with the Kindle is that most of the books that I want to read aren’t offered in Kindle editions.


  3. Three years later, and I have to say that reading on an iPhone is easier with the high resolution screen. In fact, I prefer reading books on my iPhone over my iPad. The iPad gets too heavy over time. However, I haven’t tried reading books on the actual kindle device, just the kindle app.


  4. Hi mattmaldre:
    I only recently upgraded to a 4S, so I’ll have to try reading on it as soon as I can get iBooks to sync.


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