I recently wrote this for my amazing History of the Book class and it says so much about my thoughts on the changing world of reading that I’m going to post it here.
I have always been a reader. Since I was old enough to have a proper backpack in elementary school and read, I’ve always had a book in there. Even now when I finish a book and don’t have another one set, I’ll pick one up. To me reading is physical and personal and I find the format depends on what I’m reading. I do a lot of writing online, through various collaborative formats and so there it makes sense to be online where I can constantly connect and be part of a conversation. Sometimes when I’m reading articles online, I’ll skim them and then go back to look more in-depth. At this point, I don’t mark them up like I used to do the articles I would print out for my undergrad classes where reading online didn’t make as much sense. Now I do find it simpler to refer from what I’m reading to what I’m writing on my computer. I find when I write on my blog or friends’ blogs, it’s a different style of writing, shorter but still words on a page that are connecting people. The medium does dictate how I connect to the words on the screen or the page, but my love of finding new worlds and getting deeper into them doesn’t shift that much.
When I’m reading a novel that I want to get to the end of, I adore being able to find a spot in a cafe and just sit and read to the very end. One of my favorites parts of traveling is having the time to immerse myself in a good book, the time moves on and I just can be in the moment.
An issue I’ve always had with the dealing with new mediums makes us lose something is that this argument is constantly coming around just with different devices. From writing to books and now to digital formats, I think the heart of it is that we worry about change, but as humans, we’re built to adapt. We might not like the actual process and it takes time, but the way that we have made our way through the world is by improving the tools we use. As Carr lays out quite clearly in his chapter from The Shallows, there’s this sense that now that e-readers are working better, books will become antiques. I think this isn’t true and if it does happen, it will be slow, because books are still one of the most comfortable ways to read. Jasper Fforde deals with this slightly in one of his Thursday Next mysteries that is set within the pages of books, a new technology that’s rather like modern e-books with connections and various things is brought out but it doesn’t work. I think it one thing is that reading is a personal experience and its wonderful to have the resources to reach out and connect to similar readers and authors, but when you read, its just you and the text. Sometimes the text will take you on a journey through hyperspace from one link to another while other times the journey is to the other world of the author or a point in history.