Reading Etiquette: When is it okay to use your eReader?


Any avid reader knows that feeling of getting so caught up in a riveting mystery that you just can’t put it down – and thanks to eReaders, we often don’t have to. No matter where you go your favorite book is always just a touch away – but is it always appropriate to pull out your Kindle? Reading etiquette is harder to define as technology evolves, but there are a few rules of thumb that can help. If you find yourself asking “to read or not to read?” ask yourself these questions first.

  • Am I supposed to be doing something else? Before you pull out your eReader (or surreptitiously launch Kindle on your iPhone beneath the conference room table), consider whether anyone is expecting your undivided attention. If you’re in a work meeting, on a conference call or attending a class, others have the expectation of your attention. Pretending to check email on your phone while sneaking a chapter of a Lou Mason mystery isn’t appropriate.
  • Will reading right now be disruptive?  It may be tempting to lose yourself in a crime novel while the kids watch the latest Disney movie, but that backlight will stand out light a beacon in a dark movie theatre. If your eReader will be distracting to those around you, reading etiquette says save it for later.
  • It is safe to read now? Skip the eReader any time it could put you or others in danger. Obviously, driving while reading is never okay, but getting absorbed in a thriller on your Nook while running on the treadmill isn’t a great idea either. With walking-and-texting mishaps on the news nightly, get where you’re going before opening your eReader.
  • Will reading now be rude? If you’ve accepted a social invitation, your host is hoping for your sparkling conversation – not the sparkling backlight of your Galaxy.  Never read when others expect your participation or involvement.  At large events like a wedding reception or a company picnic, use common sense for reading etiquette; if others are enjoying individual activities, it’s probably alright to read on your phone.

So when does reading etiquette allow you to pull out your Kindle? In situations where you’re waiting, it’s fine to pass the time on your eReader. You could get through several chapters of Chasing the Dead in the waiting room at your doctor’s office. Standing in line at the DMV? As long as you’re aware enough to move forward as needed, feel free to catch up on the new mystery bestseller.

With your favorite Jack Davis mystery literally always in your pocket, it can be hard to resist the urge to read at every opportunity. In situations where pulling out your Kindle is poor reading etiquette, settle for the next best option: have a conversation about the great book you’re reading!