I fought against the Kindle for years. My parents, fully aware of my deep-seated love of books, asked me again and again if I wanted a Kindle for my birthday or Christmas. I refused, arguing that nothing was better than a physical book and that reading on a Kindle would be inherently different than reading print. They scoffed and argued that there wasn’t much difference between the act of reading on the two mediums and that the Kindle would be much more convenient. Eventually I gave in and accepted their offer.
It was the benefits of the Kindle that won me over. Using my Kindle, I can easily carry around a large collection of books without all the accompanying weight, and buying those books from Amazon is much cheaper than buying them at a book store. Even better, I can also read easily in a whole host of places and at any time of day, something that can’t always be said of printed books.
Of course, there are some costs that come with reading on the Kindle. For one, after extended periods of time spent staring at the screen, I occasionally get eye-strain, which didn’t happen when I was reading print. I also miss the feel of a book and the sense of accomplishment that comes with watching the pages move steadily from the back cover to the front. These are fairly minor points, but there is something actually disconcerting that I have noticed as well.
When reading a book on the Kindle, I have often felt as though I don’t get as much from it as I do with printed works. I wasn’t sure how that was possible; surely I wasn’t reading any differently just because I switched the medium I was using, right?
I’ve been reading a book called The Shallows by Nicholas Carr for AP Comp. In it, Carr explains how the internet is changing the human mind, which has affected the way people read. Reading print has historically fostered deep reading and critical thinking, two things the internet, with its seemingly endless number of distractions, discourages in favor of wide but shallow considerations.
The brain does not process printed words and electronically generated words in the same way, so when I read on my Kindle, I really am reading differently than I would a printed book. Even if the changes are subtle, they are still there. It is not yet clear what the overall effect of the internet and electronic reading devices will be in terms of the human mind, but as technology continues to develop, it appears that the benefits of the printed book will not be completely overshadowed by those of digital books.