By Michelle King

Hamblin glasses, specially designed in 1936 for reading in bed

When it comes to reading, nothing beats sitting down with a good book for a few hours. However, if we’re being honest, months — literal months — can go by before we have the opportunity to do that. Instead, we find ourselves squeezing in reading time on the subway, in the elevator and during lunch breaks. As a result, we need to make the very most of our reading time, which is why we often turn to our smart phones and tablets for a bit of help. And no, we’re not talking about gimmicky apps that let you read a novel in 90 minutes. Reading is, after all, not a race.

We’re interested in apps that make the process of obtaining and consuming both long-form pieces and literature easier, simpler and smarter. Consider the ones listed below our winter-is-over-and-you-can-read-outside-now gift to you. That’s a thing, right?

1. Pocket

If you’re the kind of person who saves articles “to read later” but never ends up coming back to them, then Pocket is a must. The app, previously known as Read It Later, allows you to save an article or web page so you can, well, read it later and actually mean it.

2. Classics

Is your deepest, darkest secret that you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice? First off, that’s a pretty lame dark secret. Secondly, you need to download Classics immediately. The app allows you to read classic works of literature on the privacy of your tablet or smartphone, which means no one on the subway can judge you for being an Austen virgin. Whew.

3. Symphony Space Live

This app won’t exactly help you read, but it will give you the opportunity to listen to some of your favorite authors. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Symphony Space is a Manhattan-based performing arts center that regularly offers programs about everything from dance to film to theatre. One of the most beloved aspects of their programs is their literature series, which has featured authors such as Neil Gaiman, Lydia Davis and Jonathan Franzen. The Symphony Space Live app not only allows you to listen to those author talks and readings, but also gives you the option to tailor your listening experience to your schedule. For example, if your commute is 43 minutes, you can type “43 minutes” into the app and a 43-minute talk will be chosen at random. Ain’t technology nifty?

4. iReadItNow

iReadItNow allows you to keep track of the books you’ve read, as well as the books you want to read all in one place. You can add notes about the titles you’ve read, and check in on your friends to see what they’re enjoying. Far less practical but just as neat: iReadItNow allows you to chart your reading life so you can easily see how much, what and when you’ve been reading.

5. IndieBound Reader

Spoiler Alert: We here at Black Balloon Publishing, an independent press, are big supporters of local, independent bookstores. Thus, you can imagine our excitement when we found out about IndieBound, an app that allows you to easily scour local indie bookstores for the title of your choice. Now you really don’t have any excuse to shop on Amazon.

6. Scribd

The Scribd app gives you access to over 100,000 books for free. Do you know how hard it is to find something for free these days — and, even more, how hard it is to find books for free? Seriously, download Scribd right now.

7. Whispersync

Regardless of how you feel about Amazon, you have to admit: Whispersync (despite its awful name) is pretty cool. The app allows you to sync your Kindle titles with their Audible counterparts so you never lose your place. Sit down at lunch to read on your Kindle and pick up at the exact line you left off at when you start playing the audiobook version on your way home. Now that is smart reading.

Did we miss your favorite reading app? Let us know in the comments below! The more apps the better, said everyone but our data plan.

Michelle King grew up in South Florida and now lives in Brooklyn. Her contributions have appeared on BULLETT, Refinery29, xoJane and The Huffington Post. Harriet M. Welsch is still her role model and probably always will be.

(Image Credits, top to bottom: Flickr, iTunes, Google Play, iTunes, IndieBound, iTunes, Wonder of Tech)

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