Paper and Screens

I am a reader.

A reader with mixed-feelings about my Kindle.

The Kindle was a lovely and thoughtful gift from my husband that sat neglected for months until  John Irving’s latest novel hit the stores and was nearly instantly downloaded onto the Kindle for me by the aforementioned husband.

So, finally, I read my first book on the Kindle and was somewhat underwhelmed. I love being able to set down a book without scrambling for a bookmark to hold my place, but I missed the sense of progress marked by the bookmark’s progress from front to back of the volume, and the ability to peek ahead to see just how long the next chapter will be before I decide whether I have time for just one more chapter before bedtime.

Turns out that I’m not alone on this.

Salon had an interesting article (months ago now) on e-readers and reading comprehension, that touched on not just the differences in reading between paper and screens, but also how reading on screens might inhibit reading comprehension.

In any case, I have long wondered about role-modeling reading for children in a digital format. When I read on the Kindle, does that really register with my kids that I am reading rather than, say, playing video games, watching a movie, or keeping an eye on my Twitter feed?

So, while we settle into a mix of paper and digital books here at home, I particularly liked this bit from Neil Gaiman’s speech, printed in The Guardian, on the future of reading and libraries (although the whole speech is worth reading):

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them. They belong in libraries, just as libraries have already become places you can go to get access to ebooks, and audiobooks and DVDs and web content.