Learning to read

Here’s the thing.  I’ve become deeply attached to my Kindle Fire.  I can watch Orange Is the New Black on it while I work out.  I can play the twentysome games of Words With Friends I’ve got going at any given time.  I can read The Washington Post—helpfully delivered free for a trial period by the very thoughtful Jeff Bezos, who now owns the venerable publication.  I can look at the fashion magazines I used to subscribe to physical copies of.  I can find recipes for my weekend cookfests (the chili-polenta dish I tackled last week was delicious).  I can impulse buy (that little clothes steamer is a marvel)….

However, the thing I seem to do the least on my Kindle these days is read the more than 300 books stored in it.  Part of the problem is that, while I am a fan of digital content and really appreciate how much kinder this device is to my perennially aching back—which, of course, got that way from a lifetime of lugging around hardcovers and manuscripts and hunching over thousands of pages (my eyesight is bad too)—I still prefer the heft and feel of the paper product.

As this piece in The Guardian tells us, we actually absorb less information electronically because part of the reading experience involves an array of sensory input that helps us recall the physical space the words appeared in (as well as our own physical space) while immersed in the narrative.  I used to pride myself on my idiot savant ability to find a passage in a paperback I’d read 20 years ago fairly quickly by visualizing where in the book I’d come across it.  You can’t really do that on a Kindle or other e-reader, as these devices flatten the reading experience and turn it oddly two-dimensional.  Also, my Kindle doesn’t smell like anything other than plastic and maybe nail polish remover that I spilled on it while using it as a platform to do my nails.  Real books smell like musty old shops, like winter evenings, like nostalgia, like adventure.


My point is that I need to learn to read better on my digital devices and I need to do more of it.  Because with all of the distractions (see my first paragraph above) these devices allow and foster, it feels like books are an afterthought.   And, I don’t mean to be overly dramatic but when books become an afterthought, civilization as we know it is over.

So, given that e-reading is better for my back, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get more acquainted with the book side of my Kindle.  If nothing else, it should save me money on all the duplicate copies of titles I have lying around my house and hibernating in the Cloud.  What about you guys?  Do you have these problems or is it just me?


4 Responses to Learning to read

  1. Something to note there is quite a bit of difference for some people between an eInk reader and a reader with a mobile LCD screen.

    For me the advantages of my Kindle Papwewhite are enormous, especially over my laptop, the iPad, or a physical book. Everything from battery life to it size to the wonderful eInk make the technology well-suited to reading. For some people, an LCD-based screen just doesn’t past muster.

  2. My observations are similar to Anthony’s, with some elaborations. I have both the Kindle Fire and the 3rd generation eInk Kindle. The first is for video and shopping; the second is for reading. While I agree with all the tactile and olfactory pleasures that come with reading an honest-to-god book, the eInk Kindle has many advantages of its own, beyond its portability. Being able to adjust the font pleases my aging eyes; not having to prop a book open when exercising or out at a restaurant is a welcome luxury. Also, the absence of distracting, competing media on my old-school Kindle is a plus, while not being able to easily flip to the end of a chapter tends to result in my reading longer than I usually would during a single sitting. Lastly, I love how all books weigh the same on my Kindle, which makes previously daunting tomes quite a bit tamer (said the guy who waited until he had a Kindle to read — and enjoy — Moby-Dick).

  3. Miriam says:

    Thing is, guys, that I have earlier Kindles that were more “book friendly” but managing all the different devices and their content can be a major headache so I’m trying to keep it simple (and all in one place). Maybe Amazon needs to design a Kindle with a split personality where you log out of the non-book media content area and into an exclusive book area. What do you think?

    • The idea of a wall between content has potential, especially if there’s some deterrent like a sign-on requirement to waste time on Facebook or YouTube (perhaps with a timeout feature where you have to sign-in again after X minutes). I don’t see Amazon doing that on the Fire, though, seeing as they want to encourage our ADD and the electronic checkout impulse buys that come with it.

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