Remembering how to read

Doug Belshaw writes that we are in danger of loosing something fundamental:

"There was a real sense in the 1990s that reading on screen was very different to reading on paper. We’ve kind of lost that sense of difference, and I think perhaps we need to regain it"

Reading online and on our devices has become like tweeting, a throwaway act where we don't take in the words. Sharing is only a tap away and we read with an underlying agenda: can I write about this, what's the best quote, the pithy takeaway?

Just consider the "books" I got yesterday. I put books in inverted commas because while they have the format of a book (made from bound paper with a cover) they are a selection of carefully curated extracts designed for speed and convenience, to be dipped in and out of rather than read front to back.

It's wrong that we become beguiled by headlines, feed on "bite size" chunks, and share to social networks without even reading the piece based solely on the promise of what it contains.

Doug quotes:

"The suggestion that, in a few generations, our experience of media will be reinvented shouldn’t surprise us. We should, instead, marvel at the fact we ever read books at all."

Just because throughout most of human history we got by perfectly well without books, and widespread literacy is a relatively recent phenomenon, that doesn't mean we should cast them aside as though they never mattered.

Reading on paper or a screen need not be different but we should approach both as though they were the former.

We should become beguiled by the stories, by the meanings and the messages; dive deep into something, loose ourselves in it whether it's a book, blog post, whatever. Stop looking for the cheap points and make the effort to truly understand what is in front of us.

  1. amit says: #
    Oh, I couldn't agree more. I had shared my thoughts on the original post by Michael Harris. We do need to read more, and better.
  2. EddieHinkle says: #
    I definitely notice that issue with reading on my phone and computer. It’s one reason I love my Kindle. It reminds me of all the nice things of a book while the benefits of digital (highlighting, searching, storing as many books as you want)
  3. herself says: #
    very true. Though I am a reader through-and-through and love the long form. Twitter-style short fiction, and even flash fiction still doesn't appeal as much - even when done well. Funny though how Reader's Digests are still so culturally reviled...
  4. oyam says: #
    completely agree, I noticed this with my own reading too. Although, I usually get books from library, I’ll often purchase digital versions of the ones I liked or enjoyed for notes, highlights, search, and easy reference.
  5. Colin Walker says: #
    I hadn’t gotten to the original yet so will save that for my commute. I agree about the distractions which is why most of mine are off and my phone is always on silent - select ones go to the Watch but it’s easier to ignore there.
    1. Doug Belshaw says: #
      Thanksk for referencing my post, Colin! I think the fact that you posted this without reading the original post I referenced serves to reinforce the point ;)
  6. A few disparate comments: "we read with an underlying agenda: can I write about this, what's the best quote, the pithy takeaway?" I wonder whether this is unique to bloggers, who are always looking for things to write about. I admit to having fallen into this trap. "It's wrong that we... share to social networks without even reading the piece based solely on the promise of what it contains." I love the comment in a friend of mine's Twitter bio: "If I Tweet it, I've read it." "Reading on paper or a screen need not be different". I still find the experience quite different. The Kindle's definitely better than other devices (it's not like staring into the Bat Signal, for one), but still not the same. And poetry's pretty bad on the Kindle too. It often messes up the line breaks. Agree thoroughly with your last paragraph, which is the guts of your message. :)
    1. Sorry, I included some asterisks thinking they'd come out like bullets, but they've disappeared altogether. Hopefully you can make sense of what I've written.
  7. unoabraham says: #
    Something I realized… I have stopped reading on the Internet too. I use a text to speech conversion add-on that reads the webpages for me, and I'm constantly on the lookout on how to send something to either Google Home or Alexa and have them read to me.

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