The Book as Psychological Anchor

One of my favorite bloggers recently mentioned something habitual book-readers may want to ponder:

“. . .The distinct material shape of the book not only encodes a text but also becomes a reservoir of my personal history. I remember where I was when I read it. Or I recall who gave it to me or to whom I have lent it. In other words, the presence of the book on a shelf recalls its contents to mind at a glance and also intertwines an assortment of memories into the backdrop of my day-to-day life. At the very least, it becomes an always available potential portal into my past. I don’t mean to be romantic about any of this. In fact, I think this is all decidedly unromantic, having to do chiefly with the meaning and significance of the stuff that daily surrounds us.

The digitized book by contrast may have its own advantages, but by being the single undifferentiated interface for every book it loses its function as a mooring for the self. It’s not that the e-reader has no materiality of its own—of course it does. Perhaps the best way of conceptualizing this is to say that the device over-consolidates the materiality of reading in a way that smooths out the texture of our experience. Consider how this pattern of over-consolidation and subsequent smoothing of the texture of material culture recurs throughout digital society. The smartphone is a good example. An array of distinct physical objects—cash, maps, analog music players, cameras, calendars, etc.—become one thing. The texture of our experience is flattened out as a result.

“A mooring for the self.” Somehow that seems right. Not to say that ebooks, or, more precisely, reading books on a screen, don’t have their advantages or uses, but that reading a digitized ebook [and possibly listening to an audiobook?) is a difference experience than reading a printed book, with subtle – as well as obvious and/or practical – consequences.

A point worth considering before, say, deciding to radically purge a print book-based personal library.

The quotation above is an excerpt from “The Stuff of Life: Materiality and the Self,” Vol. 2, No. 13 (July 19, 2022) of the digital newsletter The Convivial Society, written by L.M. Scasas.


Pages vs. Screens: The Debate Continues

Whether printed books are superior to, or merely precursors to, screen-transmitted words continues to be controversial.

A subset of that wide-ranging debate is the argument about the physiological differences (?) in the brain when a reader uses a book vs. when a reader uses a screen. This was touched on recently in the form of a survey of some recent books on this (and related) subjects; the survey was written by Thomas Larson and posted at The Rumpus.

Read Larson’s article (and the interesting readers’ comments).


The Love of Reading…and the Limits of Memory

If the pleasures of reading books depended on how much we readers are able to remember what we’ve read…well, there’d probably be a lot less reading going on.

Still, most of us regret how much we forget about what we, um, remember reading.

Hence the frequency of readers deciding to re-read certain fondly (if vaguely) remembered books.

All of which is delightfully discussed in Michael Rowe’s essay, Good Luck, Memory, recently posted at The Millions. As is often the case with biblioblogposts, most of the readers’ comments are equally thought-provoking.

First “Slow Food,” Then “Slow Travel,” Now ‘Slow Reading’

Read the blurbs for – and a chapter from – this March 2009 book that examines the pleasures and advantages of “slow reading” here.

The author’s blog, partially devoted to the “slow reading movement,” is here.

Additional blogs extoling “slow reading” are here and here.

This past week’s Guardian article, “The Art of Slow Reading,” is here.

A biblioblogger’s review of Slow Reading is here.

Found via the New York Times’ Book Bench

Your Brain, Reading

A neuroscientist has discovered that a particular area of the brain is active when a person is reading. The reason this is an unexpected finding: many scientists believe that the human brain evolved long before people learned how to read. Since reading was invented only around 5,000 years ago, the finding is evidence that the brain can apparently learn new ways to adapt to new human activities, and transmit those adaptations to future generations. Details of the research are posted at the New Scientist’s blog Culture Lab.

Found at LISNews