Online vs. Old-time Reading

A recently-posted sentiment about the downside of reading books on screens rather than from a printed book:

Because they have been largely walled off from the world of hypertext, print books have remained a kind of game preserve for the endangered species of linear, deep-focus reading. Online, you can click happily from blog post to email thread to online New Yorker article – sampling, commenting and forwarding as you go. But when you sit down with an old-fashioned book in your hand, the medium works naturally against such distractions; it compels you to follow the thread, to stay engaged with a single narrative or argument. [As reading shifts to networked devices,] I fear that one of the great joys of book reading – the total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author’s ideas – will be compromised. We all may read books the way we increasingly read magazines and newspapers: a little bit here, a little bit there.

— Steven Johnson, from his April 20, 2009 Wall Street Journal essay entitled “How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write,” quoted by Nicholas Carr, in his January 25, 2010 posting to the Encyclopedia Brittanica Blog’s Learning & Literacy Forum.


One Response to Online vs. Old-time Reading

  1. Emily says:

    I agree with Johnson that immersion into the world of the story is impossible when stimulated by more than one media (or Firefox tab). It’s amazing how reading just one thing at a time is practically boring for my dopamine-spoiled brain. Nowadays, I have to force myself to settle down and be still in order to read.

    After a good half hour with just one story (I.e. a hard copy book), I am always so glad I did. Thanks for this post!


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