Bite-sized reading

Published August 30, 2017

I can’t remember where I heard of the Serial reading app, but I downloaded it a while back and left it sitting on my phone for a while before I had time to play around with it. After finally investigating what it has to offer, I can’t now decide how I feel about it.

As with all the best apps, Serial Reader offers up a simple solution to a problem you didn’t know you had. Classic works, from esteemed authors such as Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells or Philip K. Dick, are broken down into manageable bite-size chunks and delivered to your device in “issues” – twenty minute blocks to help you work through the task of reading.

Serial Reader screenshot

At first glance, I was thinking ‘oh great, something else that is pandering to the attention-lacking youth’ but on the other hand, I can see the appeal. Some of the most classic literature works are incredibly daunting and to have some kind of structure to not only help you start working through it but also to keep going when you might ordinarily have given up is not to be frowned upon.

One of my Life List goals was to get through a book challenge that included Moby Dick, War and Peace and far too many Charles Dickens’ books. Some of these were harder going than others, and as language continues to change and evolve, I can only see that becoming a bigger issue. These works are still very important, and so the way we consume culture has to adapt to keep up. We need guides to help break down Shakespeare’s genius and make it accessible, and it’s surely only a matter of time before more of the classics are treated in a similar manner.

It’s also something that classic fiction did a lot more than us - breaking stories down into serial chunks. Charles Dickens is one of the most notable writers of serialised fiction, so why not enjoy his works as they were meant to be read?

The app isn’t just about making texts more accessible, though, it’s also making a bit of a game out of the reading process. You can subscribe to a book and select your required options, then you’ll get one issue every day to begin your journey. The app gives you statistics about how far you are through the book and how much you’ve been reading recently, and who doesn’t love a good badge?

Some of the press clippings on the site suggest it’s the “reading mode of the future” but I would hesitate to go that far. What it could be useful for is those who need to get through a book for education purposes, or those that are studiously working through a list. It would have been really useful for me, and although I don’t want all reading to go this way, I am sad I didn’t get to try it out on one of those titles I was muscling my way through. It won’t change how you read books but it could help with specific titles, and I think that makes it worth a look.

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