I face a thirty minutes commute to work in the morning and when I come back it is another thirty minutes. I had to commute to the city when I went to university as well, so I've been commuting to the city for about nine years now.
Most of the time when I'm on the train I love to just look out the window and space out. It's nice to just let your mind wander when you've just woken up or when you've just had a long and hard day at work or university. But sitting or standing in the train and doing nothing sometimes makes me wonder whether I'm wasting time. If I read a book or listen to something on an MP3 player, I might be able to use this idle time to learn something rather than do nothing.
Listening to MP3 players on the train can be useful, especially if you are trying to filter out the conversations of people around you. Sometimes other people say the most annoying and offensive things, and when they say these things it's not easy to denounce them because these people are strangers.
The problem with MP3 players is that the train is a noisy place. It is not just the noise of people talking that bothers me. Most trains in Melbourne are so old they make loud noises. To be able to hear your MP3 player amid all this noise, you have to turn the volume up, and by turning the volume up, there is a risk that you might go deaf.
Reading a book can prevent you from focusing on other people's conversations. You're so focused on your book that the conversations of others just becomes background noise. You can read not only books but also newspapers.
The problem with newspapers is that they take up space. Broadsheet newspapers like The Age are a nightmare to read on the train because they are simply too big. Even when you're sitting down they are difficult to read. Tabloid-size newspapers like Australian Financial Review and Herald Sun are readable if you're sitting down but during peak hour when you have to stand up, they are not easy to read because you need both your hand to hold the newspapers and if both your hands are busy holding the newspaper then you have no hand left to hold on to something for balance. Thus reading the newspaper can put you at risk of falling over if the train jerks around. With Melbourne's massive population growth, it seems likely that commuters on trains will have to stand up more and more. Reading newspapers just ain't easy anymore.
Reading books presents the same problems as does reading tabloid newspapers. You generally need two pages to read a book. Most books are small enough that you can hold them with one hand, but if you want to flick to the next page you generally need two hands.
The best move then is to read an ebook on your mobile phone. I have recently downloaded on my computer a very good program called EBookME. This is free software that allows me to convert a text file into a JAR file, which can be uploaded on my phone. A JAR file is a file that is used for phones that run Java apps. The great thing about this is that I can now download from the internet free books and then put them on my phone. There are plenty of free books from Project Gutenberg. These books are usually written before the 1950s, which means that copyright has expired and you are legally allowed to download them for free. I have just downloaded a text version of The Great Gatsby and I'll be reading it on the train.