It’s not my preferred way to read nonfiction, for example, because I like underlining too much. (I know that I can “highlight” in the Kindle, but it’s not the same.) That particular interface may be better on a Nook or an iPad, but at the end of the day, I’ve had enough of a backlit screen; the Kindle is easy on my tired eyes.
Schools across the nation have begun to use—or are considering the move to use—e-readers in the classroom, and the discussion about this has begun. A recent article by technology/culture writer Nicholas Carr discusses two studies on the way students use books … and e-books. As noted, electronic textbooks have some advantages: they can be easily updated as new information becomes available. (Consider a never-ending history book. Yikes.) Obviously e-books reduce the use of paper, and dozens of textbooks can be carried in one small e-reader, so backpacks will get smaller. (As will backaches.)
But not so fast. Carr says printed books continue to have advantages over digital ones:
People read in a variety of ways. Sometimes they immerse themselves in a book, reading without interruption. Sometimes they skim pages to get a quick sense of the story or argument. Sometimes they search for a particular passage. Sometimes they skip back and forth between two or more sections of a text, making comparisons. And sometimes they take notes or highlight passages as they read.
Because we’ve come to take printed books for granted, we tend to overlook their enormous flexibility as reading instruments. It’s easy to flip through the pages of a physical book, forward and backward. It’s easy to jump quickly between widely separated sections, marking your place with your thumb or a stray bit of paper. You can write anywhere and in any form on any page of a book. You can keep many different books open simultaneously, dipping in and out of them to gather related information. And when you just want to read, the tranquility of a printed page provides a natural shield against distraction.
Not to mention how much it would suck if your e-book battery died or crashed the night you were cramming for an important test. :)
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