How are ebooks changing the way we read? Jennie Walters
I've been thinking about this question a lot recently - mainly since giving my younger son a Kindle for Christmas. (OK, I'm a slow thinker.) Up until then, pretty much the only two books he'd read for pleasure were Hurricane Hamish:Calypso Cricketer and Hurricane Hamish:The Cricket World Cup, by Mark Jefferson, which he polished off at the age of ten. Nothing else seemed to compare to those two. Twelve years later and post-Kindle, however, he has been devouring books almost continuously. The screen seems to have turned books into a pleasure, rather than a chore which he associated with his parents' generation. Recently I was talking to the boyfriend of a young cousin, just back from a tour of duty with the RAF in Afghanistan, who said the same thing: he never used to like reading but now he loads up his Kindle before he goes and finds it passes the time brilliantly. (It's also easy to carry in a uniform pocket and resistant to sand and glare.) Schools are reporting hugely encouraging results after giving Kindles to reluctant readers. The format seems less daunting; partly, perhaps, because you can't tell how many more pages there are still to read. All you have is the screen in front of you, with a manageable chunk of text on it. And none of your friends can tell what you're reading from the cover, so you don't have to worry about being teased. (Such anonymity has been used to account for the rise in sales of erotica amongst women, too.)
|Now he'd be reading a Kindle on that lilo|
Another phenomenon I've noticed which is perhaps less positive, however, is the way that acquiring books (particularly free ones) seems to have become an end in itself. I might be wrong, but I wonder if people are so overwhelmed by the massive library of books they've accumulated, they're actually reading less. There are people on Goodreads with literally thousands of titles on their 'to-read' lists; no wonder they can't bring themselves to start any of them. A couple of adult reviewers of my 'Swallowcliffe Hall' books (which were originally published for teens) have specifically said they chose them because they were short. My husband tells me that robotics are the next big thing and that in the future we'll acquire foreign languages by means of a translation chip embedded under our skin, but at the moment, there's no such handy shortcut. You just have to sit down and read. There are so many stories out there - downloadable in a few seconds, dirt cheap or free - that we're drowning in them, and perhaps we're valuing them less. Still, too many books are better than too few, I suppose. Maybe after ebooks have been around a few years, we'll become more temperate about them.
What about you? Have you noticed ebooks changing the way you read?
Picture top right from www.bhatt.id.au
I've only just acquired an Android tablet with a Kindle app and it is too early to tell how it might be affected by my book stacking habits but until the household sports fan learns to hack into it I can be assured that there won't be any little surprises on there.
There's also the dystopian niggle: what happens to our books if there's a breakdown in the way we do things? Or the technology changes so radically, and only certain texts are converted? This doesn't address the question of how we read, but it's a worry.
Like you, Jennie, I've now become used to reading on my ereader and I'm finding myself reluctant to read a hard copy of a novel (sadly, it now feels weird). However, I still prefer hard copies of books that are illustrated, non-fiction or antique. It's only everyday adult fiction I want to read on my ereader.
By the way, I have a Sony ereader and at the bottom of every screen it gives you the page number and number of total pages - I'd hate not to have that as I need to know how far I am in a book.
Good point about reluctant readers not being embarrassed because nobody can see what they're reading.
But I am equally happy with print or screen now. Don't think I could read much on an ipad but the no-glare e-ink of the kindle is easy on the eye.