Not Reading

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Oh Please !

"The term ebook, more than a misnomer, is an oxymoron: we may read a text on a screen, in between anxious jumps to other windows, but we do not read a book because we do not achieve the level of concentration necessary to experience the spiritual or artistic affects that books provide. Some software even invites the user to read the book and watch the movie at the same time."

What utter nonsense. As a writer who has been reading for many decades and now reads a lot of eBooks on a Kindle and other devices I find this kind of paper-fetishist-inspired drivel utterly laughable.

Howard more than 9 years ago

Really, another one?

Yet another “a screen is not a book blah blah” diatribe? Papyruses weren’t books, either. Or codexes, pamphlets, comic strips, illustrated tapestries, graffitis, cell phone screens. website isn’t a book either. So what? They didn’t have books in Ancient Greece but still used to read stuff just fine. Articles like these are elitists, boring, ignorants regarding History and design. Sorry for the micro-rant, but it’s tiresome. So many more people may be able to read thanks to these “not-books”.

Alex more than 9 years ago

Most ebook readers would disagree

Now, there's certainly a difference between reading a book and just surfing (I think that's the word you are looking for) through the internet on various websites that satisfy some aspect of one's vagrant attention and curiosity. That isn't real reading. But that's not because we read it on a screen, but because of the way our attention moves in a wandering and short-term way. Sitting down to read a book on my Kindle doesn't offer those distractions, which is one of the reasons I prefer it to tablets or cell-phones for book reading. Dedicated ebook readers are much more immersive media than these other multi-use contraptions.

Broken Yogi more than 9 years ago

Your mileage may vary...

For me, reading-based immersion/transcendence is the same with books and e-books. Your mileage may vary.

SpringfieldMH more than 9 years ago

How is this not reading?

I'm not sure I can agree with some of the author's points. Although Marshal McLuhan's "medium is the message" concept is clearly at play here, and definitely applies at some level to the age of cellphones, I would say that there are now two distinct modes of information absorption, rather than one having replaced the other. The fact that we now have near-instantaneous access to most of the world's information from our pocket has certainly changed the way we seek information to be brief, efficient, even incomplete. But reading itself still has the exact same effect on the brain, and we still can be thorough to the point of obsession, just without the trip to the library. Who hasn't spent hours on Wikipedia by accident just learning "stuff"?. I can be completely engrossed in a book on my e-reader exactly the way I would with paper. It can even simulate the turning of pages with the way I swipe my finger over the screen. I've actually read dozens of large works of literature on an e-ink screen. I also have a problem with some of the examples used to support the argument. What you see on a university town bus today is exactly the same as it has always been, only now the people who would have otherwise been twiddling their thumbs or distracting themselves with a cheap dime novel are now doing so with a cellphone. There's still plenty of students poring over a textbook, and there always will be. As for e-books, I think the author missed the usual demographics of literature. Forgettable formula fiction accounts for the largest swathe of ALL book sales, not just ebooks. Most people still prefer print anyway, which is why there is a much smaller market for e-readers and digital books. A proportional percentage of that group of readers using digital means will be reading serious literature as well, just like with print books. I think it is fair to say, however, that the constant barrage of sensory input that has grown in recent years has definitely affected our ability to concentrate. In that, we may have a point of agreement.

Cam more than 10 years ago

further comment on 'not reading'

But, this problem is why I do not write poetry on my computer. It is as if my entire office's files are waiting for me to choose them, choose them. In order to reach the file you want to read or to write, you have glanced at so many other options that I frequently do not indeed get to the purpose of why I turned on the computer. I know how many emails are waiting for me, and they are only a click away. I know whose comments on Facebook might be interesting or need support from friends or I might have something I want to post to my friends. I know all the major newspapers are there waiting to be read, as well as advocacy news such as Rabble and Mother Jones. How can I concentrate on the task at hand? Just now when I opened this email from Geist, I was supposed to send a message 'as soon as possible' to a colleague, and it has not yet been sent as I write this first. This is obviously a problem that annoys me and I am glad to know of another ponderer on the issue.

Janet more than 10 years ago

comment on 'you're not reading'

I so agree with this. I add that when I close my kindle, the book I was 'reading' disappears into the same space as all the other works in the kindle. I cannot easily find a particular page to reread just that page, which is part of my pondering the book, the writing, or the story. I cannot look at the book, see it on the shelf when I think about it or when I am considering it in relation to other books there. It has disappeared into the kindle, and if the kindle were to fail, the book would be gone. Thus, the book and story are less real, less permanent, and my mind works to not believe this, instead of thinking about the book and the story.

Janet E Smith more than 10 years ago


I have been reading since long before television. I read my way through the books on our shelves: collected editions of Trollope, Thackeray. Dickens, Scott, RL Stevenson, Hardy, etc. I even read the King James edition of the Bible. I read through Conrad and then Faulkner. I became more eclectic. At the same time I read comics (the 4 my brother got weekly, which had pages and pages of nothing but text, and any others). I read children's books (most didn't last long). And I read newspapers but no more. Today I read mostly mysteries written by women and articles for information that come from sources I respect.
Once I realised I was reading zig-zag, I tried going back and reading line by line. I couldn't. And nothing was fresh. Yet I do get more from a good book every time I re-read it with an goodly interval between.
The words for what people do today might be: scanning, skipping, or headline skimming.

Marjorie Stewart more than 10 years ago