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Monday, February 07, 2011

'How You Read Not as Important as Will You Read?'

from Shelf Awareness, Monday, February 7, 2011, Volume 2, Issue 1385

"The new immigrants don't shoot the old inhabitants when they come in. One technology tends to supplement rather than supplant. How you read is not as important as: will you read? And will you read something that's a book--the sustained train of thought of one person speaking to another? Search techniques are embedded in e-books that invite people to dabble rather than follow a full train of thought. This is part of a general cultural problem."

--James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, in a Newsweek poll of "some literary brains on the future of reading."

In this instance, I disagree.  The search techniques are a bonus - IF you are already a reader.  You will read no matter what.  Your reading will not change if you're in a book or on an e-reader.  You will not "dabble rather than follow a full train of thought."  The thoughts are there and you will read them.

My fear is the potential loss of a generation of readers, per se, the loss of a love of books, the loss of a love of reading, when books on an e-reader become a reference tool, as the internet is now, rather than the gift of time lost in another world created by someone's blood, sweat, tears and imagination...  I am afraid people will view books on an e-reader like they look at the internet:  bits and bobs, one-liners, fragments of information like that commercial about how you jump from topic to topic when using a search engine: 

I'm just not convinced that you are sucked into a book, lost in that world, on an e-reader the way you are when those bound pages are in your hot little hands.  I've read books on an e-reader.  I'm not speaking without the experience.  But in my case, one will NEVER take the place of the other.  Admittedly there are circumstances when an e-reader will be beneficial to me - when I have to pay for every piece of luggage I take on vacation by the pound and one suitcase is filled with new hardcovers to read that week?  Uh-huh, an e-reader would be better.  BUT I wouldn't (and don't) enjoy the reading as much on the e-reader.

Perhaps that's my objection - not the tool itself, but the fact that I don't enjoy the activity using that tool as much as I do holding the book and turning the pages.   I have the Nook app, the Kindle app, AND an e-reader app on my iPod Touch.  I've had the iPod Touch since mid-December, and have yet to finish a book/story on it.  I have read 8 books since then...  I play games on the Touch, I read email on it, I listen to music on it, I check the weather at home and in St. Charles (where one of my best friends lices) on it.  But I don't read books on it.  I have Ayn Rand's Anthem on it, one of my all-time favorite stories.  Nope.  I have a freebie version of a Winnie the Pooh story on it.  Read about 3 pages.  Little Women is on one of the apps, too - another personal favorite (I always wanted to be Jo when I grew up!), but no, haven't read more than the intro.  And didn't enjoy it. 

I know part of it is the size; the small screen only allows you to read a sentence or two at a time and I'm such a fast reader that I can't "turn the pages" fast enough; maybe on a bigger screen I might be less angry every time I try to read one...  Although I have the apps on my desktop too and it never even crosses my mind when I'm on the PC to read on it...

Oh well, just another one of my humble opinions...

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