Monday, May 17, 2010

Does Technology Improve the Reading Experience?

Anna Goodall in today's Independent asks important questions that seem to have got lost in all the excitement about ebook readers, the i-pad and the rest :
... does digital technology improve the experience of reading, especially reading fiction? Those aiming to make money out of e-book technologies need us to believe that it does. But can e-readers of whatever sort ever escape the whiff of functionality however impressively book-like they are? ... Even when reading them for work, paper books and magazines are a refuge from the laptop I'm chained to for hours a day. Reading paper books is an escape from utility, information overload, endless possibility... and my obsessive-compulsive social-networking habits.
And she wonders :
... are consumers in danger of forgetting how to enjoy themselves on their own terms? The body language of e-reader users I spotted at this year's London Book Fair didn't exactly suggest relaxation or pleasure. From the lone frowning Kindle-user spotted on the Tube on the way to Earl's Court holding her expensive cargo stiffly on her knees as if any excess movement and the whole thing might blow, to the touch-screen tap-tappings of stressed-out publishers demonstrating book-reading on the iPad by dragging several times (and a little frantically) at the virtual pages to get them over, one can't help thinking that turning a real page would be more enjoyable and stress-free. ... is the act of reading becoming a bit too business-like, too practical? 


Au and Target said...

I enjoy reading books and ebooks on my laptop while lying flat out on the sofa. But ask me to read something for work and I tend to sit up straight and look distrait, just like that Kindle reader on the Tube.

glenda larke said...

I'm keeping an open mind on this until such time as I get my own e-reader, which is inevitable.

However, I do remember lots of writers saying they would never use a computer for writing a book...especially the ones who always wrote their initial draft with a pen or pencil...I wonder if there are any of those left now?

When it comes to feeling at ease, so much depends on what we grew up with. I imagine some one who is, say, 10 years old now, being totally comfortable with an ebook while curled up on the couch.

Floral said...

I have been using a Sony ebook reader for the past few months and love it! I have no problem using it anywhere and everywhere.

Fadz said...

There is a difference between proper e-readers and computers/laptops: the glare of backlighting. An e-reader is not supposed to hurt your eyes, and acts as a book does.

I think it's going to be like the war between floppy disks/CD and thumbdrives. Initially people were not keen on using the thumbdrives because of the cost, but now it's the expected norm.

Because e-readers are not easy to get (especially here - I'm talking about choices), and it's still expensive, people have doubts. But I do believe this new form of reading will be an accepted norm.

I still love good ol' paperbacks, though.