Saint Thomas Aquinas

Monday, July 4, 2011

Books: Digital VS Paper

"Books might now descend from being commodities to the ephemeral, disposable level of e-mails."

Since I will focusing on promoting reading material on this blog, I thought I would share with you this article that I ran across pertaining to how we read books today. With the internet and E-Readers now becoming popular, it seems that hard copies of books are less sought after. Certainly digital reading can be more convenient and you can take with you many books at one time. But, is this really a good thing? How has our attention span and our ability to stick with one book been affected by the digital age? Do we spend as much time reading as prior generations, and are we able to develop good habits when a large portion of our reading comes from the internet or digital sources? Certainly we can say that television and other multimedia sources have moved modern culture away from reading, but how has the book in digital form affected us? This article examines this question. I do enjoy my Nook Color, but time and time again I find myself spending more time reading an actual book. What are your thoughts? Read the full article here.

"...recent discoveries from which emphasize the brain’s “neuroplasticity”—the tendency of parts of the brain to reshape themselves in response to injury by way of compensation, or develop or atrophy by habitual use or disuse. Indeed, neurophysiology plays a significant role in Carr’s narrative, as he relates scientific research revealing that interaction with the Internet lights up the frontal cortex of our brains, where short term or “working” memory processes immediate experience; while reading conventional books exercises the hippocampus, a different, deeper part of the brain associated with the transmission of long-term memory to the cortex of the brain.

All of which gives force to Carr’s assertion that the Internet changes the way we think. The Internet, by its natural force of rapid movement from one screen to the next, from one piece of information to the hypertext’s other—and the digital books to which it gives birth and to which it is so similar—occupy the lion’s share of our daily online experience. Digital books share the habitual characteristics of their environment, the Internet. Those experienced and embedded in the normal way of reading linear text in physical books might be able to read “deeply” the given digital text, but the increasing numbers of those immersed in a digital environment will only bring the tools given them by that environment. They will find it increasingly unnatural to read physical books, and I believe, increasingly unable and disinclined to read at all."
"The inevitability of turning the pages of books into online images should not prevent us from considering the side-effects. To make a book discoverable and searchable online is also to dismember it. The cohesion of its text, the linearity of its argument or narrative as it flows through scores of pages, is sacrificed. What that ancient Roman craftsman wove together when he created the first codex is unstitched. The quiet that was “part of the meaning” of the codex is sacrificed as well. Surrounding every page or snippet of text on GBS is a welter of links, tools, tabs, and ads, each eagerly angling for a share of the reader’s fragmented attention." (Carr, The Shallows)

5 comments:

Sean said...

Matthew,

Congratulations on your new direction. The Catholic blogosphere has become a garbage pit of preening, clashing egos.

I've long thought that a blog devoted to the review of good Catholic books was needed. Perhaps grace has led you down this new path so that some may have a sanctuary of sanity.

Prayers.

KnotWilbur said...

I love to read, especially all things Catholic. And, as I mentioned in a brief comment a bit ago, I do love my Nook Color, too. I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, I currently have about 150 books on the nook. It's convenient for a number of situations in that manner. And when I go to my primary job (IT), I bring a backpack, whose poor straps I have often stressed severely by virtue of book weight. So, the Nook, for me, equals convenience and a continuing pair of functional straps. ;)

On the other hand, I love genuine books more. I have a small library of Catholic books, kept on high until the three smallest pairs of dear hands (out of the five) understand better book care. These include some really great works (to me), and even with the Nook, I often still carry a book or two to either job. Whilst I type this, I admit, a book is languishing.

Even when I buy a digital book, it's difficult to suppress the desire to print the darned thing. I suspect that Carr is correct. Email is generally ephemeral, and perhaps rightly so. Books should not be. As an IT guy, I make backups of my computer, as a "what if" preparation. And I make backups of my ebooks as a part of that process. But, as I often say to number one daughter, genuine books need only the light to be read. Ebooks require power and an appropriate vehicle with which to view them.

I'll happily continue to buy ebooks, as well as downloading public domain ones, but I will always try to rely primarily on print in the literal sense. Not just for me, but for my children, all of whom should by all rights be voracious readers. Besides, when I am old and decrepit, it'll give the kids exercise ("Son, could you please move that seven-foot tall stack of books over here?")

Matthew Bellisario said...

Thanks for the positive comments!

kkollwitz said...

As great as is my affection for the digital world, I find that I learn better through the physical process of handling paper, be it in a book, a printout, or a newspaper.

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