[I was slightly inspired by ‘What the Internet is doing to our brains‘ by Ncholas Carr and ‘Thinkin is so over‘ by John-Paul Flintoff so I decided to dig in this topic]

According to James Hall’s article ‘Printed book sales slump’ on The Telegraph 08 Mar 2012, during the first eight weeks of 2012, the sales of printed books in UK including novels, non-fictions and children’s books fell by 4.7 million to 25 million a half million fewer than the opening weeks of 2011. The fall in sales of physical books has been attributed to the rapidly-growing popularity of Kindles and other e-readers, which display virtual books that are downloaded from the internet.

The fact mentioned above is a proof of how internet and new technology have been affecting our reading habit and some people are actually predicting that possibly in ten years or so electronic text including books, magazines and newspapers will soon replace tangible printed matters. However, there are always two types of thought on this issue: one prefers the eco-friendly and convenient reading devices while the other one keeps arguing that paper is far better and no matter how advanced technology will be, readers will never stop reading on paper.

Here I am going to analyze three main reasons leading to the latter type of thought.

First of all, there have been many studies which concluded that reading on screen reduces our reading speed as well as accuracy. In the review Reading from paper versus screens: a critical review of the empirical literature [1992], Dillon stated:” By far the most common experimental finding is that silent reading from screen is significantly slower than reading from paper (Kak,1981; Muter et al, 1982; Wright and Lickorish,1983; Gould and Grischkowsky, 1984; Smedshammar et al 1989). Figures vary according to means of calculation and experimental design but the evidence suggests a performance deficit of between 20% and 30% when reading from screen”.

Moreover, screen reading also brings distraction, therefore leads to bad reading habit. There is a fact that we are losing the ability of deep reading and concentrating and that has actually happened to me. For instance, I was reading an article on iPad about  ‘how to stay healthy’ when I saw a list of ‘healthy’ cooking recipes on the side which led me to another article full of recipes. Then, from one of those recipes I would go the shopping list page and the next one could be ‘where to buy them’ or even ‘stores closed down after failing food quality checks’. The process would be carried on until I totally lost track of what I was intending to read from the beginning or, maybe, when a notification of Smurfs’ Village game appeared. So, at the end of the day, I would not bother coming back to read that ‘how to stay healthy’ article anymore. Gloria Mark once mentioned this problem in her article ‘The Effects of Perpetual Distraction’ [The New York Times, October 14, 2009]: “My own research shows that people are continually distracted when working with digital information. They switch simple activities an average of every three minutes (e.g. reading email or IM) and switch projects about every 10 and a half minutes. It’s just not possible to engage in deep thought about a topic when we’re switching so rapidly.” Hyperlinks and notifications surely bring you to information faster but is also more of a distraction.

Finally, the most common reason that makes several readers prefer physical printed things is that they just simply love the feeling of holding a tangible object and when they read a book, they are “handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when the book was taken off the shelf it still says the same thing – that’s reassuring.” [Jonathan Franzen: E-books are damaging society, The Telegraph, 29 Jan 2012]. In ‘The Future of the Book as Viewed from Inside a Tornado’, Timothy Barrett also predicted that the reading device in the future “will be handmade. There are many excuses for cutting corners or making hybrids that are partly handmade, but when we encounter an object that embodies and epitomizes what the book has meant through the majority of its existence, very likely it will have been made by hand. […] The ability to emit this presence, this authenticity more than any technical attributes is what makes the handmade thing unique and precious.”

[I’m thinking of an argument essay about both of good and bad sides of screen reading but I don’t know if 2000 words will be enough, what do you think? Any comment will be appreciated, thanks.]

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