Perhaps I’m thinking too hard about this topic after just recently finishing Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for the first time, but I feel like I am seeing more discussions about this topic every day. Some argue that the prevalence of technology in our every day life is putting up barriers between ourselves and reading, but personally think it is easier than ever to read, if you know how to wade through the distractions.
I am a huge Apple fanboy, I have both an iPhone and a Macbook which is why I chose the Apple Books app as my main reading app. Currently I’m reading The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter. I’ve never been interested in buying a Kindle so I didn’t see much of a point in using Amazon’s offerings, though I know some people who swear by the Kindle and the e-ink display. I had always been wary of reading ebooks, I thought they couldn’t possibly provide an experience on the same level as opening a new book, having the feel of the book in your hand, the smell of it, or even just the act of closing it and putting it down after a long reading session.
After spending some time reading ebooks I have changed my mind about them. While I still prefer to read physical old-school books, I see the value in having an ebook on my phone with me. I can read whenever I have a few spare minutes and just want to kill some time. As an added bonus it stops me from reaching out to social media apps to fill my time with mindless scrolling. Knocking out a few pages here and there adds up over time and results in me reading much more than I ever used to.
As an avid gamer I also respond well to the way apps can track the books I read, either in Apple Books or through my Goodreads account. It gives me a goal to work toward and who doesn’t enjoy filling up progress bars? On days I don’t feel much like reading I have this extra incentive to keep my daily reading streak going in the app. It definitely isn’t necessary by any means but it adds another layer to the process that makes it just a little more fun to me.
One of the positives effects I feel from reading physical books is that I can disconnect from technology all together. So much of our lives are spent staring at screens, so when I get the chance to read a traditional hardcover or paperback and not be connected to any screens I feel refreshed. It’s good for us to take a break and not chase notifications and likes. That doesn’t mean you can’t experience this disconnect on some level with an ebook. As I said earlier my friends that have a Kindle tell me time and time again about the way the e-ink display feels like looking at a real page. They don’t have notifications popping in either, so they feel as though they are disconnected.
Obviously the best way to read an ebook while mirroring the experience of reading a physical book would be to use an e-reader as that would not have any of the outside distractions a phone or traditional tablet would have. However, you can set up a phone or tablet to silence all notifications so that when you are reading on it you can focus on the text and not have all of your normal notifications pop-up and take you away from your reading.
Technology even allows us to customize the way we read. We can change text to be bigger, choose fonts that are easier to read, and even change the colors so they are easier on our eyes. These accessibility features break down some of the barriers people experience with traditional books. It makes it easier for people to read books that might otherwise have been difficult for them. The feature that I find most valuable in ebooks is the ability to highlight a word and immediately get a definition for it in the app. It makes it easier to learn as you go and while you could look up a word separately while reading a normal book, this just removes one step from that process and keeps you reading.
For many of us technology (social media in particular) has a grip on our free time. Anytime we have a free moment we spend it sifting through meaningless posts on social media. It doesn’t need to be that way though, if we want to we can utilize technology to help us read books more than ever before. Ebooks are a great way to read more and spend our free time in a more constructive way, of course you could bring a physical book with you and read that way instead but it is far more likely you would have your phone with you no matter where you are. I can’t personally see myself ever choosing ebooks as my only way of reading over traditional books but I do believe technology is helping me read more than ever before.
One thought on “Is Technology Pushing us Away from Literature?”
This is a great post on a highly topical subject! I agree that books and technology don’t have to be seen in opposition. Have you read Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan? It’s a delightfully quirky crossover between literature and technology. I’d highly recommend it if you’re interested in these two areas! 😊
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