Round up of digital book skepticism

For a while, at least, there will be plenty of memes going around attempting to position digital reading in opposition to reading on paper. I think it’s obvious that there is no such opposition, no such hierarchy, yet still we have commercials making the most of this ‘competition’. There are even children’s books which do it. I’m pretty sure this book is aimed squarely at adults who don’t like the shift to digital, for whatever reason. (Nostalgia, I’d say.)

Fancy E-Books Aren’t Teaching Your Kid Jack from Mommyish



A few people have a few good points.

e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done.

– The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens


Most of what I know isn’t in my head. It’s out there in my books. I know how to do a lot of integrals in calculus, for example. But, really, what I mean by that is that I know where my book of integrals is, and I know where in the book any particular method is. I know all that stuff in all those books in my house because I can find my way there.

Books in a bookshelf possess lots of visual cues, so I can quickly find my way to the right book — “Oh, it’s on the bottom left of the shelf by the window in the living room, just below that big blue art book.”

– Do I Want My Brain in Physical Books, or e-Books?

However, it would  be silly to think it’s only interactive books for children that get Judgy McJudingtons worked up. Here are 11 books people will judge you for reading. I’ve read Eat, Pray, Love and liked it, and started a couple of others.

Salon points out (quite sensibly) that books are still most durable way to store information: That hard disk may not be as fail proof as you think, and CDs can degrade in as little as ten years


I don’t see how adding “movement, sound, and visuals” creates an immersive reading experience. Speaking as someone who has walked into trees, cars, people, and traffic (once) while being immersed in a book, I don’t see how anything else is necessary beyond words on a page/screen.

Why Does Everyone Keep Trying To Reinvent The Book?, The Digital Reader


The glow I experience when I see my boys leaf through a much-loved picture book is replicated for some when their darling picks up the iPad. Living as I do in an old-school home, bereft of iPad, smart phone and indeed television, I am of the stubborn opinion that this is a nonsense. I am quite happy for my children to serve the role of control group in the modern social experiment. It is a nonsense because the so-called skills of swipe, press and zone-out hardly need to be practised. The development trajectory of digital media is towards ever more user-friendly applications. A moron can immerse themselves in the digital existence, and judging from the quality of online contributions, a great many of them do. I’m not arguing that children should be kept away from these devices, but rather that there is no great need for the skills involved to be incessantly practised.

Bernard Beckett, Booknotes Unbound. I acknowledge that Beckett is not criticising digital books per se — he may well have no issue with those — and I do agree with him that these tap/swipe skills don’t need to be practised. It’s the imaginative muscle that needs to be practised. Perhaps this attitude, however, is what turns certain literary parents away from owning digital devices. Also, as the father of three year olds, how long can he reasonably expect to be device free?

Booksquare Blog prefaces an article on the technology of social reading with an expression of disappointment in enhanced ebooks and apps:

As much as the idea of enhanced ebooks brings the sexy to publishing, it doesn’t really do much for most of the books published. Enhanced, enriched, transmedia, multimedia…these are ideas best applied to those properties that lend themselves to multimedia experience (or, ahem, the associated price tag). While many focus on the bright and shiny (and mostly unfulfilled) promised of apps and enhanced ebooks, the smart kids are looking at the power of social reading.

Reading In The Digital Age

I have thought quite long and hard about whether all books would benefit from being turned into an ‘enhanced’ version, and the longer I spend thinking about the potentials (mostly unfulfilled, as noted above) the more I think that if time and money were of no consequence, then yes, every text could benefit from genuine enhancements — in some cases it might be as simple as hyperlinks to dictionary definitions. In other cases an enhancement might offer historical background… the imaginary possibilities are limitless. What I take issue with in Booksquare’s paragraph above is the complaint about the cost. If apps have done one thing for consumers, a skewed pricing structure has made books more economically accessible, not less. The devices themselves are expensive and out of reach for many, yet. But I rankle at the suggestion that book apps are expensive. They are not. The fact is, quality follows funds. In the entire scheme of things, you basically get what you are prepared to pay for.

quite so.
via Pinterest, of course

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