With the advent (and growing popularity) of eBooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.
How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?
Well, I'd hate to try to say categorically what reading is ABOUT. I expect it's about something different for almost everyone who reads, and sometimes - often, even - it's about different things at different times for the same reader!
I have no desire to own a nook or kindle or e-reader. I don't like reading like texts on screens. Even three or four page articles from, say, the New York Times online is too much screen-text. I like the materiality of my books; I like the way they look on my shelves; I like the heft of them (even when my backpack is overloaded with dissertation-related books from the library).
I do have an occasional wish for an e-reader so I could download all those lovely old children's books on Project Gutenberg - there are a ton of Angela Brazil titles in the public domain that I can't easily get my hands on in book form but sit digitally in Project Gutenberg's servers. But I can download and read them on my laptop if I really want to, or I can put in interlibrary loan requests and wait for copies to show up from across the country.
Whenever I hear about the bells-and-whistles features on e-readers, all I can think of (and literally, it's almost all I can think of) is UltraWord (tm) in Jasper Fforde's The Well of Lost Plots. My brain yells out: "Thrice-read! It'll smell like cantaloupes!"
I'm not much of a tech geek or a bells-and-whistles kind of girl, though, and I realize there are people who love that kind of stuff. I like that DVDs give me the option - watch the film straight, or turn on the director's commentary. As long as I still have that choice with books, I'll be okay.
It's also important for me to note that I really just flat-out cannot afford an e-reader. I rarely buy books - I hit my library, then scour used book sales and yard sales to add to my collection. A very few specific authors or titles I will allow myself to buy new. But my book-acquisition budget is tiny, and a $200 device to allow me to buy more books is not in the offing.
I am also very interested in the results of this study, especially this: "The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues, such as the location on the page and the position in the book to find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read."
Cognitive mapping is, evidently, the jargon for my longheld sense of confusion or disorientation over reading on a screen; it also, I think, explains why what I read on a screen doesn't stick very well in my memory, yet my book-reading recall is very, very good indeed.
I'm a little chilled by the thought of an UltraWord(tm) takeover, but on the whole, I am okay as long as I still have the choice of reading regular old paper books. And I look forward to the day when people start unloading their paper book collections on the cheap at yard sales - I'll be there, snapping those discards up for my own collection.
Though, to be fair: When moving day rolls around, all those cartons of books DO make me groan. Having to pack just a nook, instead of ten bookcases' worth of books, would make a big difference to my aching muscles.