E-Books and the Loss of “Deep Reading” Ability

Over at the Homeschool Lounge, we’ve been having a discussion about eBooks and whether they’re popular with homeschooling parents and kids. I’m learning from other parents that many of them love eBooks, and that there are an increasing number of devices you can use to read them. It remains to be seen which eReaders will survive and which will wither on the vine.

The competition among eReaders is certainly heating up. Just today, BN.com dropped the price on its Nook (now $149-199) and Amazon responded by immediately cutting the price of its Kindle from $259 to $189. Now that the price wars have begun, more people will use eReaders, I’m sure.

I do wonder, though, if it’s good for us to be reading so many things on computers. This writer believes that we are losing the ability to “deep read.” He says we’re so used to being distracted by other things on the screen (hyperlinks, ads, etc.) when we read that we no longer become immersed in one piece of writing. Instead, we flit from topic to topic.

I’ve noticed this myself. Just yesterday I was reading an interesting biography of Katharine Hepburn. She had a 25-year-long affair with actor Spencer Tracy, who apparently cheated on Hepburn just as he cheated on his wife with Hepburn. Had I been reading an eBook or online article, there probably would have been a hyperlink to more information about the many women in Spencer Tracy’s life, and I probably would have clicked on it and gone off on yet another Internet bunny trail. But since I was reading an actual hardback book, I just thought, “I might look that up online sometime,” and continued reading the book. Score one for deep reading.

Right now, reading on the Kindle is not so different from reading a hardback book. I had the opportunity to play with a Kindle recently, and I can see why people like it. It’s very much like a print book in shape and usage. But while it’s similar in size, it holds many books, and you can easily buy more on impulse.

But according to Amazon, before long eBooks on the Kindle will have hyperlinks. Some believe there will also be ads. Then it will become just another way to read online, and the war on “deep reading” will continue.

12 thoughts on “E-Books and the Loss of “Deep Reading” Ability

  1. Barbara,
    Have not even bothered to look into any of this yet but, as a writer, guess it is inevitable.
    However, it never occurred to me that ebooks would be hyper linked. That truly stinks.

  2. I still prefer regular books to ebooks. Think ebooks have their place, but cannot replace curling up with a good old regular book. 🙂 Happy weekend!

  3. Carol, I get the convenience of hyperlinks, but I do think it will affect deep reading as the author states. Maybe they’ll come up with a way to turn hyperlinks on and off?

    Kristy, haven’t been up there lately. I’ll have to come and check out your new blog. Thanks for the link!

    Karen, I tried a Kindle recently, and while it can’t replace the real thing, it is kinda cool 🙂

  4. I am most excited about the possibilities for out-of-print books. There are so many available for free online. An e-book reader will never be the same as a paper book, but as I look at my overflowing bookshelves I’m all for embracing technology that would allow me to store 100s of books. 😉

  5. I hear you, Renae. But when I try to imagine living without my overflowing bookshelves because everything’s on a little reading device instead, it just seems weird. I can’t picture my home without books everywhere. Maybe I’m just getting old….. 🙂

  6. Guess I’m an old-fashioned girl, but I just love real honest-to-goodness paper books! But Renae does have a good point about out-of-print books, so I might concede for that reason. But I’m not getting rid of my books & my bookcases!

  7. My daughter just received a Kindle for her birthday. I dread the thought of hyper linking the text. Reading an article at Salon the other day the comments section digressed into a discussion of whether a writer should hyper link within an article or link at the end of the article. A majority of posters preferred links at the end. I like that too. So perhaps Amazon will enable the user to turn the links off. Much has been written recently about how the internet is changing the way we think and altering our ability to focus or turn off the way our brains multi-task on the computer.

  8. I hear you, Jamie. That’s why we’ve started reprinting some of the good out-of-print books. Got a great one for boys coming out soon! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

    WildIris, I’m glad to hear so many people want their links at the end. Let’s hope Amazon, etc. are listening. Thanks for weighing in!

  9. Pingback: Roscommon Acres » Blog Archive » Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling, Independence Day edition!

  10. I am an avid reader, and curling up with a good book is a favorite past time. That said, I also love ebooks, but I only use them for school. As I choose our curriculum for the year, I choose many public domain books also because they are free and very high quality literature. We don’t read them on the screen though! I have a duplexing laser printer, and I print them out and have them bound. Each book ends up costing me around $3 total. I have been eying the Kindle and wondered what that would be like to use, but I don’t want an ebook reader that has links. I guess I’ll hold off and see what they morph into.

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