Do I really need something else to carry?

Taking your library with you everywhere — it sounds exciting. But it also sounds like yet another thing to try to cram into my purse.

(NYT) Over the last eight months, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a range of smaller companies have released book-reading software for the iPhone and other mobile devices. One out of every five new applications introduced for the iPhone last month was a book, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends.

All of that activity raises a question: Does the future of book reading lie in dedicated devices like the Kindle, or in more versatile gadgets like mobile phones?

One of my main reasons for resisting e-readers like the Kindle or the upcoming Nook — though I confess I’m getting increasingly curious and would love to try one out, if not commit to a long-term relationship — is that I’m an iPhone user. As I’m sure my Blackberry sisters will also agree, I’ve gotten turned around to the idea of having everything in one little device. Phone/texting, Internet and email, handheld gaming device, GPS, music player, address book, checkbook, remote control for my home stereo, satellite radio. These are all things that I’ve got in one little unit. I don’t want a whole different unit for just reading books. My mind doesn’t go in that direction anymore. Reading an e-book on my iPhone, with either Amazon’s or Barnes & Noble’s or standalone software like ZappTek’s Legends, is more appealing. But there’s a price — that small screen. Still, I’m not sure the cons outweigh the pros.

I think it’s possible the forthcoming Apple Tablet, with its far more ample screen size and yet relative portability, may be a gamechanger, especially if you can sync books between your desktop, iPhone/iPod Touch and Tablet, giving you lots of options for where and how you can read your books. I don’t know about you all, but I’m enough of a book geek that the idea of having my top five favorite books (The Mists of Avalon, Anna Karenina, Tigana, Dune and The Color Purple) in hardcover/paperback, and on my iPhone, and on my desktop, and in my portable tablet computer, sounds drool-worthy. I would never be without them! I could read them however I want to, wherever! And that school of thought might influence other manufacturers to think along the same lines. Or, I’m over-the-top crazy when it comes to books. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: book-crazy people are the only people who can make e-readers and e-books work. People who are non-readers just won’t care. So if you can’t win over the book-nuts, you’re sunk.

In the meantime, the iPhone’s screen is somewhat small for extended reading. Having used it myself, I will say it is surprisingly pleasant to use. I didn’t experience any trouble with the text size or my eyes getting tired. Of course I wouldn’t want to read everything that way, but for the time being, it’s been an adequate way to read on the go — when I’ve been stuck in a long line or showed up too early for a meeting. And most importantly, it doesn’t take up any extra purse acreage.