The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (Alan Jacobs)

– Highlight Loc. 1068-70  ///  In short, once you start reading a book on the Kindle—and this is equally true of the other e-readers I’ve tried—the technology generates an inertia that makes it significantly easier to keep reading than to do anything else. E-readers, unlike many other artifacts of the digital age, promote linearity—they create a forward momentum…

It’s interesting to relate but the kindle is almost more of a book than a paper and ink book. It focuses your attention more tightly on the reading process. Everything that is secondary to the movement from one page to the next, like quickly thumbing through a book or flipping open a random page, is massively more bothersome than one’s linear advance through the pages. [Last week I taught my class the meaning of linear in connection with short stories, novellas and novels. This week quite a few still remembered. ] One doesn’t get distracted by the easy accessibility of other text passages and the roaming impulse that will sometimes cease the reader.

There is more: legibility. One can vary the font size at ease. At first this sounds trivial but then it’s really not. After having read a couple of novels in a very agreeable font face, I inbetween switch back to my paper and ink books. Some of them have shockingly small writing [The savage detectives], which indeed strains the eyes and on the whole makes the reading experience significantly less enjoyable.

Lastly, there are the social and intellectual aspects of writing. Often one would like to easily share a passage of any given book because it contained some unrecoverable gem of insight. In this case I will usually jot down a red bar in the side of the page. However, while this makes it easy to find for later re-reading, it has not yet solved the problem of communicating it to somebody significant. That will either take the co-presence of the person and the book, the typing out of the passage in question or even the scanning of the book. Though it sounds cumbersome, I’ve lately done some of the latter, given the excellent, convenient scanner we have at our library. That, however, still leaves me with just a pdf file rather than a .doc so I can’t work with it in any sensible file, other than as a copy&paste image to be transplanted into living text tissue. In other words: old school paper&ink text is exceedingly static, unwieldy when it comes to quick, accurate people2people communication. Not so with the kindle: I clip the passage, upload it as a text file and have it ready for whatever social deployment I care to use it for.

The same applies to productivity in a textual framework: kindle clippings makes all quotations quickly and easily usable in a way with which paperbacks cannot compete with.

And this then is the point in the argument where people who otherwise only seem to care about narratives and grand ideas and higher literary ideals, nothing physical certainly, suddenly begin harping on the material irreplacability of the book. 



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About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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