The Future of Reading

My Epic of Gilgamesh post is imminent.

Until then I wanted to mention two articles that recently appeared on Wired magazine’s blog The Frontal Cortex on the subject of reading in the digital age. In “The Future of Reading” and “The Educational Benefit of Ugly Fonts”, blogger Jonah Lehrer discusses how the convenience of e-readers could be detrimental to our overall engagement with books. He hypothesizes that the growing clarity of e-ink combined with the ease of devices such as the kindle are creating mindless readers. Because we no longer face troubles with the mechanics of reading, there is less need to stop and understand the text on a deeper level. Things like smudged ink and bad fonts can actually drastically improve comprehension and retention because it forces the reader to slow down and take part. It wakes them up, essentially.

Lehrer makes some interesting arguments, many of which I have been mulling over lately.  I have to admit, I love using the kindle app on my iPad. Having an easily accessible dictionary and highlighting functions are great. However, finishing a book always feels like an incomplete experience. Something indescribable is missing. Maybe it’s that loss of conscious effort that Lehrer is describing.

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One Response to The Future of Reading

  1. Aaron Kasdan says:

    Interesting stuff. Reminds me that in Farenheit 451, the decrepit state of Montag’s culture is created first by the populace: accessibility of entertainment and over-saturation of ease leads to the decay literary “muscle” amongst the masses, creating a culture of veneer versus substance. I suppose Bradbury’s work is still as telling today as it was half a century ago since modern society seems to be continually fulfilling this prophetic trend.

    Re-reading a little bit, it’s interesting that Prof. Faber exalts books for their “pores”, the difficult detail to be sought out in it’s features. “The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.” Not meant to be simply a physical aspect of the page, it is more about the difficult truths books reveal about the human experience. I wonder if something of this is lost the more we diffuse information without allowing it to impact us.

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