Christian

Kindle and other E-readers

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And for the record, this is exactly what critics of the printing press said when human culture moved from hand transcription to movable type.

The sense of permenance associated with the hand-written word still obtains in the sense that we accord such ancient scribal products much significance, as we rightly should. They are works of art.

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And for the record, this is exactly what critics of the printing press said when human culture moved from hand transcription to movable type.

The sense of permenance associated with the hand-written word still obtains in the sense that we accord such ancient scribal products much significance, as we rightly should. They are works of art.

I think for me, less it's less about permanence and more about the loss of process involved. Even in contemporary times, bound books, especially higher quality copies, take time to produce. Formatting and layout, design, cutting, all those things are perhaps seemingly insignificant in the long run. But e-books sometimes strike me as too easy.

To me, it's as detrimental to the writer as to the reader. Every step we take in the literary world toward technological sophistication, we take a step out of the process, of thinking through each word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. From handwriting to the typewriter, from the typewriter to the keyboard. And now, in all likelihood, from the keyboard to voice-to-text recognition. The whole of writing will take on an entirely different personality, one that involves more immediate results and less wrangling.

Perhaps I'm being too worrisome. But it feels like the move to e-reading is perhaps subtly driven by cultural subconscious notion to integrate reading into the broader digital/media experience in a way it wasn't before—on both the reading and writing ends of things—rather than to maintain it as a set-apart paradigm, which functions in different ways, and often, for different reasons.

This is not to say I don't have iBooks and Logos Bible Software on my iPhone, but I do feel occasionally like I'm illegitimizing the event—the encounter—of reading, even if in a small way.

Edited by Joel C

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To me, it's as detrimental to the writer as to the reader. Every step we take in the literary world toward technological sophistication, we take a step out of the process, of thinking through each word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. From handwriting to the typewriter, from the typewriter to the keyboard. And now, in all likelihood, from the keyboard to voice-to-text recognition. The whole of writing will take on an entirely different personality, one that involves more immediate results and less wrangling.

The first three examples simply use different tools to accomplish the same end. The last example isn't writing at all; it's speaking. And anyone who has ever had to transcribe incoherent thoughts that are babbled into a tape recorder knows how different that is from writing.

I wouldn't worry about the future of writing. There is no substitute for the real thing. But I'm not ungrateful for keyboards and word processing applications. I'm sure there are people who continue to write longhand because anything less seems like a betrayal of the process. More power to them, I suppose. But I'm happy with the ability to edit and rewrite on the fly.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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Every step we take in the literary world toward technological sophistication, we take a step out of the process, of thinking through each word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. From handwriting to the typewriter, from the typewriter to the keyboard. And now, in all likelihood, from the keyboard to voice-to-text recognition. The whole of writing will take on an entirely different personality, one that involves more immediate results and less wrangling.

2 months ago, I would have nodded in agreement, but my experience has recently taken a U-turn, when I got the Duo I mentioned above. Windows 7 includes handwriting recognition software, so using the stylus I am now able to handwrite on the screen using a stylus, and it will convert my writing into ordinary computer text. Ever since my freshman year of college, I have been wanting to be able to write my essays, etc., by hand, but I couldn't because they had to be printed out from the computer--now I can have the best of both worlds.

(P.S. I am typing this post, because I'm at my work computer. But I wish I was writing it... :P)

Edited by David Smedberg

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Jacobs' thoughts on ereaders, linked above, have reassured me about the devices (I still don't have one but would like one, if only to satisfy my curiosity about them). However, Nicolas Carr's The Shallows has convinced me that if I get an e-reader, it should be a single-purpose device, not a 3G/Tablet/Internet-ready/Rewire-Your-Brain-Permanently device.

(Not that one's brain wouldn't be rewired by a standalone e-reader. Just ... not as much.)

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I don't think Franzen really makes it, but I do think there is a valid argument on the disadvantages of E-Books. It's a yet to be written essay that's been lurking around my mind for a couple years, but it's got to be pretty hard to argue without just resorting to either mere nostalgia about how nice a printed book makes me feel or to my own personal, limited and subjective experiences.

Possibilities include:

- does a printed book do something to our memories that a computer/kindle screen doesn't? It's probable that storytellers within an oral tradition have more powerful memories than storytellers who would hand-write their own works, just as it's probable that more of what you write stays in your brain when you hand-write it than when you type it out on a computer.

- is there personal interaction that is lost when you go from a physical printed book to a screen? I certainly remember pages and places in books because I take the time to underline them, write in the margins, fold corners of the page to find them later, etc. This, however, could possibly be remedied simply by digitizing the ability to, oh say, underline a quote on a page of one's e-book (in fact, I'm pretty sure this ability already exists in some formats). But would that be the same? Possibly.

- does reading from a physical printed object affect the way that you think (as opposed to reading electronic or battery-powered screens)? My instinct is that it does, but I have yet been able to put why into words, so maybe the instinct is wrong.

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I don't think Franzen really makes it, but I do think there is a valid argument on the disadvantages of E-Books. It's a yet to be written essay that's been lurking around my mind for a couple years, but it's got to be pretty hard to argue without just resorting to either mere nostalgia about how nice a printed book makes me feel or to my own personal, limited and subjective experiences.

Possibilities include:

- does a printed book do something to our memories that a computer/kindle screen doesn't? It's probable that storytellers within an oral tradition have more powerful memories than storytellers who would hand-write their own works, just as it's probable that more of what you write stays in your brain when you hand-write it than when you type it out on a computer.

- is there personal interaction that is lost when you go from a physical printed book to a screen? I certainly remember pages and places in books because I take the time to underline them, write in the margins, fold corners of the page to find them later, etc. This, however, could possibly be remedied simply by digitizing the ability to, oh say, underline a quote on a page of one's e-book (in fact, I'm pretty sure this ability already exists in some formats). But would that be the same? Possibly.

- does reading from a physical printed object affect the way that you think (as opposed to reading electronic or battery-powered screens)? My instinct is that it does, but I have yet been able to put why into words, so maybe the instinct is wrong.

To underline what I wrote earlier, Jacobs' and Carr's books cover these points to various degrees. I'd encourage you to seek them out. (I know you had earlier planned to read Jacobs.)

Edited by Christian

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In Franzen's defense, this picture wouldn't be nearly so cute if my son was sleeping with a Kindle or Nook.

6797327589_8daf59315f_z.jpg

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The first three examples simply use different tools to accomplish the same end. The last example isn't writing at all; it's speaking. And anyone who has ever had to transcribe incoherent thoughts that are babbled into a tape recorder knows how different that is from writing.

Andy, the fact that the last example is speaking rather than writing is my point exactly. Voice to text is becoming so streamlined (I say this as an regular Siri user) that for many people this will replace the process of typing or writing something out.

And I guess I just disagree that the "different tools" accomplish the same end. Yes, the end result is that the thoughts of the writer are captured on a blank page/screen. However, I tend to hold that the method engages the mind of the writer in subtle but vital ways. When someone has to put more work into correcting a mistake/unwanted portions of text (whiting out wrong/unwanted words on a typewritten page, as one example), they are by virtue of consequence more careful in their phrasing, and consider each word more fully simply by merit of thinking about it longer. These little stones are the beginnings of the landslide of effective writing, in my own perspective.

As a slight rabbit trail to attempt to illustrate the consequences of this change, I have a weird side-thought, which I'm going to throw into this conversation, and allow others to parse for me and apply at will. During my composition studies at Berklee, I found that when using digital scoring software, such as Finale, which has real-time MIDI playback, I found it much harder to go back to pencil and staff paper and think/hear music out straight from my head. I've always had a fairly strong inner ear, but the software allowed me to become out of practice of conjuring up ideas and structures, and transferring them onto blank paper. Many of my professors warned about this, and some even required music to be strictly written out. Since graduating, I've tried to return to writing composition straight from memory as much as possible, or, if needed, I'll use a piano. It engages my brain much more fully than if I had the technology doing the work for me, and though it takes me longer, I feel more in command of the score when I actually have to write out every note, rather than having copy/paste available to me.

Apply that as loosely or closely as you will to the practice of writing - and, by relation, reading.

2 months ago, I would have nodded in agreement, but my experience has recently taken a U-turn, when I got the Duo I mentioned above. Windows 7 includes handwriting recognition software, so using the stylus I am now able to handwrite on the screen using a stylus, and it will convert my writing into ordinary computer text. Ever since my freshman year of college, I have been wanting to be able to write my essays, etc., by hand, but I couldn't because they had to be printed out from the computer--now I can have the best of both worlds.

(P.S. I am typing this post, because I'm at my work computer. But I wish I was writing it... :P)

Heh. Your last sentence is why I would tend to think that such tools are more for novelty than here to stay, but I imagine handwriting-to-digital-text is a nice improvement indeed to the personal computing experience.

Edited by Joel C

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The first three examples simply use different tools to accomplish the same end. The last example isn't writing at all; it's speaking. And anyone who has ever had to transcribe incoherent thoughts that are babbled into a tape recorder knows how different that is from writing.

Andy, the fact that the last example is speaking rather than writing is my point exactly. Voice to text is becoming so streamlined (I say this as an regular Siri user) that for many people this will replace the process of typing or writing something out.

And I guess I just disagree that the "different tools" accomplish the same end. Yes, the end result is that the thoughts of the writer are captured on a blank page/screen. However, I tend to hold that the method engages the mind of the writer in subtle but vital ways. When someone has to put more work into correcting a mistake/unwanted portions of text (whiting out wrong/unwanted words on a typewritten page, as one example), they are by virtue of consequence more careful in their phrasing, and consider each word more fully simply by merit of thinking about it longer. These little stones are the beginnings of the landslide of effective writing, in my own perspective.

I suppose it depends on the purpose of the "writing." If someone is composing a grocery list, or something else that simply requires the quick capture of information, then I suppose voice-to-text technology might be a viable means of writing.

But real writing? Writing that requires precision of language? Writing that requires creativity of expression? It doesn't matter whether it's done longhand, on a typewriter, or on a keyboard with a word processor. That kind of writing takes a lot of time, and a lot of thought, and always will. I can't tell you how much time I spend writing, and re-writing, and then re-writing again if I have to write something for publication. A one-page review will often go through five or six revisions over many days. Who cares whether someone uses white-out, or merely deletes old text and enters new text? Real writing evolves. It always has, and always will. I don't think the tool matters.

And I'm a fan of keyboards and word processing applications. I can't say I miss the days of white-out at all. Longhand? No one could read it. I couldn't even read it. Thank God for standardized fonts.

Edited by Andy Whitman

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I suppose it depends on the purpose of the "writing." If someone is composing a grocery list, or something else that simply requires the quick capture of information, then I suppose voice-to-text technology might be a viable means of writing.

I think, perhaps, you are grossly underestimating the potential for voice-to-text software.

But real writing? Writing that requires precision of language? Writing that requires creativity of expression? It doesn't matter whether it's done longhand, on a typewriter, or on a keyboard with a word processor. That kind of writing takes a lot of time, and a lot of thought, and always will. I can't tell you how much time I spend writing, and re-writing, and then re-writing again if I have to write something for publication. A one-page review will often go through five or six revisions over many days. Who cares whether someone uses white-out, or merely deletes old text and enters new text? Real writing evolves. It always has, and always will. I don't think the tool matters.

Well I care for one. Deleting and entering new text on a word processing program takes a split second. There are no consequences to writing something inaccurately, especially in regard to grammar and punctuation, something for which most programs now have autocorrect. Even if you have five or six drafts, the process of editing them is vastly simplified compared even to typewriting; consider copying/pasting in a word processing program compared to a typewritten draft. I tend to think that when there are more consequences, when it takes longer to get a thought out onto a page—and to go back and edit that thought later—there will be more care and thought put into the process. Besides the fact that when I use word processing, I'm constantly surrounded by other streams of information—internet, email, skype. I don't know about you, but I find it very difficult to shut those noises out when typing up a document in a word processor, no matter how intentional I tell myself I'll be. It's far too easy to get distracted. Which plays into my point that everything is becoming integrated, and the process is being eliminated as much as possible by those with the power to do it.

Ftr, I'm not speaking from inexperience about professional writing; both my parents are published authors, and my father is a professional editor, so I know what it looks like to do copy and content-editing.

And I'm a fan of keyboards and word processing applications. I can't say I miss the days of white-out at all. Longhand? No one could read it. I couldn't even read it. Thank God for standardized fonts.

I'm not trying to dismiss word processing as an invalid or dangerous medium. I use it all the time, of course. I'm using it right now. But I am asking you and others to consider if there might be consequences that come about because of it. There certainly have been for me.

Edited by Joel C

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Jacobs' thoughts on ereaders, linked above, have reassured me about the devices (I still don't have one but would like one, if only to satisfy my curiosity about them). However, Nicolas Carr's The Shallows has convinced me that if I get an e-reader, it should be a single-purpose device, not a 3G/Tablet/Internet-ready/Rewire-Your-Brain-Permanently device.

Christian, if you do end up getting one, note that if you are interested in a NY Times subscription, you can a Nook Simple Touch for free.

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I suppose it depends on the purpose of the "writing." If someone is composing a grocery list, or something else that simply requires the quick capture of information, then I suppose voice-to-text technology might be a viable means of writing.

I think, perhaps, you are grossly underestimating the potential for voice-to-text software.

But real writing? Writing that requires precision of language? Writing that requires creativity of expression? It doesn't matter whether it's done longhand, on a typewriter, or on a keyboard with a word processor. That kind of writing takes a lot of time, and a lot of thought, and always will. I can't tell you how much time I spend writing, and re-writing, and then re-writing again if I have to write something for publication. A one-page review will often go through five or six revisions over many days. Who cares whether someone uses white-out, or merely deletes old text and enters new text? Real writing evolves. It always has, and always will. I don't think the tool matters.

Well I care for one. Deleting and entering new text on a word processing program takes a split second. There are no consequences to writing something inaccurately, especially in regard to grammar and punctuation, something for which most programs now have autocorrect. Even if you have five or six drafts, the process of editing them is vastly simplified compared even to typewriting; consider copying/pasting in a word processing program compared to a typewritten draft. I tend to think that when there are more consequences, when it takes longer to get a thought out onto a page—and to go back and edit that thought later—there will be more care and thought put into the process. Besides the fact that when I use word processing, I'm constantly surrounded by other streams of information—internet, email, skype. I don't know about you, but I find it very difficult to shut those noises out when typing up a document in a word processor, no matter how intentional I tell myself I'll be. It's far too easy to get distracted. Which plays into my point that everything is becoming integrated, and the process is being eliminated as much as possible by those with the power to do it.

I think those who don't care about writing will use whatever shortcuts are at their disposal and produce sloppy writing. And those who do care about writing will continue to take their time, think, write, and revise, regardless of whether they use a notepad, a typewriter, or pixels on a monitor.

I'm not trying to disparage your points, Joel, and I'm certainly in favor of writers thinking long and well about what they write. But I have no nostalgic longing for the good ol' days of illegible handwriting or having to start over on a typewritten page any time I made a mistake. Those are major distractions in themselves; writing becomes more about typing than creative or precise expression. Yes, there are distractions with keyboards and computer monitors. But as a master of procrastination and avoidance, I think I can say that those are issues about my character, and they would be there regardless of the medium I chose to express my thoughts. Writing is hard work. There is no substitute for buckling down and doing it. If I'm writing about music, I typically alternate between bouts of listening to the music and sitting in silence in front of a keyboard. If I'm not writing about music, then I try to sit in silence in front of a keyboard. And if I mistype a word, as I frequently do, or if I simply don't like the way I've expressed something, then I sit, think, and rewrite. The process is much the same as it's always been, but I spend less time typing and more time writing.

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There is some difference for me, but the difference is skewed in the direction of classic works of literature because they are free on the Kindle. So the Kindle has had the devastating effect of making it easier for me to read the canon of western literature that I always found excuses to avoid or ignore.

Would you chime in with any favorites that you've specifically read for free on Kindle? (Anyone's contributions would be welcome). I must confess that my eye for the wonderful work of Project Gutenberg is bigger than my stomach, as I've yet to tackle the great Russian books I'm sitting on. My favorite Project Gutenberg read so far has been The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and re-reading Twain for the first time since high school.

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There is some difference for me, but the difference is skewed in the direction of classic works of literature because they are free on the Kindle. So the Kindle has had the devastating effect of making it easier for me to read the canon of western literature that I always found excuses to avoid or ignore.

Would you chime in with any favorites that you've specifically read for free on Kindle? (Anyone's contributions would be welcome). I must confess that my eye for the wonderful work of Project Gutenberg is bigger than my stomach, as I've yet to tackle the great Russian books I'm sitting on. My favorite Project Gutenberg read so far has been The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and re-reading Twain for the first time since high school.

Sure.

Edith Wharton. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Gustave Flaubert. Sinclair Lewis. Thomas Hardy. George Eliot. Anthony Trollope. Kate Chopin. G.K. Chesterton. Henrik Ibsen. Theodore Dreiser. Henry Fielding. Virginia Woolf.

These are all writers whose works I've largely left unexplored until the Kindle. I've read one or two novels from some of the authors listed above. Others I hadn't read at all. My book club is currently reading Crime and Punishment. I had read it years, probably decades, ago. I remembered very little about it, and my paperback copy was long gone, the victim of a move or a loan to a friend or God knows what else. It was free on the Kindle, as are the rest of Dostoyevsky's works.

I realize that there are arguments for and against the Kindle. But look: the canon of western civilization is free. If you have a Kindle, you might as well take advantage of it. I have, and I'm delighted.

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- does a printed book do something to our memories that a computer/kindle screen doesn't? It's probable that storytellers within an oral tradition have more powerful memories than storytellers who would hand-write their own works, just as it's probable that more of what you write stays in your brain when you hand-write it than when you type it out on a computer.

- is there personal interaction that is lost when you go from a physical printed book to a screen? I certainly remember pages and places in books because I take the time to underline them, write in the margins, fold corners of the page to find them later, etc. This, however, could possibly be remedied simply by digitizing the ability to, oh say, underline a quote on a page of one's e-book (in fact, I'm pretty sure this ability already exists in some formats). But would that be the same? Possibly.

- does reading from a physical printed object affect the way that you think (as opposed to reading electronic or battery-powered screens)? My instinct is that it does, but I have yet been able to put why into words, so maybe the instinct is wrong.

To underline what I wrote earlier, Jacobs' and Carr's books cover these points to various degrees. I'd encourage you to seek them out. (I know you had earlier planned to read Jacobs.)

Interesting thoughts from Carr:

pg. 90 -

Research has shown that the cognitive act of reading draws not just on our sense of sight but also on our sense of touch. It's tactile as well as visual. "All reading," writes Anne Mangen, a Norwegian literary studies professor, is "multi-sensory." There's "a crucial link" between "the sensory motor experience of the materiality" of a written work and "the cognitive processing of the text content." The shift from paper to screen doesn't just change the way we navigate a piece of writing. It also influences the degree of attention we devote to it and the depth of our immersion in it ...

pgs. 99-100 -

But as a device for reading, the book retains some compelling advantages over the computer. You can take a book to the beach without worrying about sand getting in its works. You can take it to bed without being nervous about it falling on the floor should you nod off. You can spill coffee on it. You can sit on it. You can put it down on a table, open to the page you're reading, and when you pick it up a few days later it will still be exactly as you left it. You never have to be concerned about plugging a book into an outlet or having its battery die.

The experience of reading tends to be better with a book too. Words stamped on a page in black ink are easier to read than words formed of pixels on a backlit screen. You can read a dozen or a hundred printed pages without suffering the eye fatigue that often results from even a brief stretch of online reading. Navigating a book is simpler and, as software programmers say, more intuitive. You can flip through real pages much more quickly and flexibly than you can through virtual pages. And you can write notes in a book's margins or highlight passages that move or inspire you. You can even get a book's author to sign its title page. When you're finished with a book, you can use it to fill an empty space on your bookshelf - or lend it to a friend.

pgs. 101-102

Digital readers have also improved greatly in recent years. The advantages of traditional books are not quite as clear-cut as they used to be. Thanks to high-resolution screens made of materials like Vizplex, a charged-particle film developed by the Massachusetts company E Ink, the clarity of digital text now almost rivals that of printed text. The latest readers don't require blacklighting, allowing them to be used in direct sunlight and reducing eye strain considerably. The functions of the readers have also improved, making it much easier to click through pages, add bookmarks, highlight text, and even scribble marginal notes ... One of the more popular of the new digital readers is Amazon's own Kindle. Introduced with great fanfare in 2007, the gadget incorporates all the latest screen technology and reading functions and includes a full keypad. But it has another feature that greatly increases its attractiveness. The Kindle has a built-in, always available wireless connection to the Internet ... The Kindle's most radical feature, at least when it comes to think about what's in store for books, is its incorporation of links into the text it displays. The Kindle turns the words of books into hypertext. You can click on a word or a phrase and be taken to a related dictionary entry, Wikipedia article, or list of Google search results.

pgs. 102-103 -

The Wall Street Journal's L. Gordon Crovitz has suggested that easy-to-use, networked readers like Kindle "can help return to us our attention spans and extend what makes books great: words and their meaning." That's a sentiment most literary minded folks would be eager to share. But it's wishful thinking. Crovitz has fallen victim to the blindness McLuhan warned against: the inability to see how a change in a medium's form is also a change in its content. "E-books should not just be print books delivered electronically," says a senior vice president of HarperStudio, an imprint of the publishing giant HarperCollins. "We need to take advantage of the medium and create something dynamic to enhance the experience. I want links and behind the scenes extras and narration and videos and conversation." As soon as you inject a book with links and connect it to the Web - as soon as you "extend" and "enhance" it and make it "dynamic" - you change what it is and you change, as well, the experience of reading it. An e-book is no more a book than an online newspaper is a newspaper.

Edith Wharton. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Gustave Flaubert. Sinclair Lewis. Thomas Hardy. George Eliot. Anthony Trollope. Kate Chopin. G.K. Chesterton. Henrik Ibsen. Theodore Dreiser. Henry Fielding. Virginia Woolf.

These are all writers whose works I've largely left unexplored until the Kindle. I've read one or two novels from some of the authors listed above. Others I hadn't read at all. My book club is currently reading Crime and Punishment. I had read it years, probably decades, ago. I remembered very little about it, and my paperback copy was long gone, the victim of a move or a loan to a friend or God knows what else. It was free on the Kindle, as are the rest of Dostoyevsky's works.

pgs. 103-104 -

Christine Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington D.C., recently wrote about her experience using a Kindle to read the Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby ... "Although mildly disorienting at first, I quickly adjusted to the Kindle's screen and mastered the scroll and page-turn buttons. Nevertheless, my eyes were restless and jumped around as they do when I try to read for a sustained time on the computer. Distractions abounded. I looked up Dickens on Wikipedia, then jumped straight down the Internet rabit hole following a link about a Dickens short story, 'Mugby Junction.' Twenty minutes later I still hadn't returned to my reading of Nickleby on the Kindle."

Rosen's struggle sounds almost identical to the one that the historian David Bell went through back in 2005 when he read a new electronic book, The Genesis of Napoleanic Porpaganda, on the Internet. He described his experience in a New Republic article: "A few clicks, and the text dully appears on my computer screen. I start reading, but while the book is well written and informative, I find it remarkably hard to concentrate. I scroll back and forth, search for key words, and interrupt myself even more often than usual to refill my coffee cup, check my e-mail, check the news, rearrange files in my desk drawer. Eventually I get through the book and am glad to have done so. But a week later I find it remarkably hard to remember what I have read."

When a printed book - whether a recently published scholarly history or a two-hundred-year-old Victorian novel - is transferred to an electronic device connected to the Internet, it turns into something very like a Web site. Its words become wrapped in all the distractions of the networked computer. Its links and other digital enhancements propel the reader hither and yon. It loses what the late John Updike called its "edges" and dissolves into the vast, roiling waters of the Net. The linearity of the printed book is shattered, along with the calm attentiveness it encourages in the reader. The high-tech features of devices like the Kindle and Apple's new iPad may make it more likely that we'll read e-books, but the way we read them will be very different from the way we read printed editions.

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Christine Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington D.C., recently wrote about her experience using a Kindle to read the Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby ... "Although mildly disorienting at first, I quickly adjusted to the Kindle's screen and mastered the scroll and page-turn buttons. Nevertheless, my eyes were restless and jumped around as they do when I try to read for a sustained time on the computer. Distractions abounded. I looked up Dickens on Wikipedia, then jumped straight down the Internet rabit hole following a link about a Dickens short story, 'Mugby Junction.' Twenty minutes later I still hadn't returned to my reading of Nickleby on the Kindle."

This is precisely why I asked for the simplest, most stripped down Kindle available. I wanted as few distractions as possible. And thankfully, this is where the Kindle's interface -- which can be a real pain in the butt to navigate -- actually helps. I could search Wikipedia if I wanted to, but it's such a pain to do so that I don't want to.

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Christine Rosen, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington D.C., recently wrote about her experience using a Kindle to read the Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby ... "Although mildly disorienting at first, I quickly adjusted to the Kindle's screen and mastered the scroll and page-turn buttons. Nevertheless, my eyes were restless and jumped around as they do when I try to read for a sustained time on the computer. Distractions abounded. I looked up Dickens on Wikipedia, then jumped straight down the Internet rabit hole following a link about a Dickens short story, 'Mugby Junction.' Twenty minutes later I still hadn't returned to my reading of Nickleby on the Kindle."

This is precisely why I asked for the simplest, most stripped down Kindle available. I wanted as few distractions as possible. And thankfully, this is where the Kindle's interface -- which can be a real pain in the butt to navigate -- actually helps. I could search Wikipedia if I wanted to, but it's such a pain to do so that I don't want to.

Indeed, I don't know what Rosen is talking about. Perhaps she has a different version of the Kindle than I do. Mine doesn't have links. It has only text, and because the screen isn't backlit, that text doesn't look significantly from black print on a white page. It doesn't look like a computer screen. It looks like a book. Indeed, this is why I decided to purchase a Kindle vs. an iPad, which is backlit, and looks like a computer screen. And frankly, because the experience is so linear (it is, for example, much more difficult to flip back and forth to maps, indexes, etc.), I tend to stay more focused with the Kindle than I do with a hardcopy book.

I also don't know why anyone would use the Kindle's Internet capabilities, other than to download books. The browsing experience is frustrating, to say the least. If you want to browse the Internet, use a computer. The Kindle really isn't meant for that.

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More on the ereader vs. tablet debate:

E-Books on Tablets Fight Digital Distractions

People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks. ...

For book publishers, who have already seen many consumers convert from print books to e-readers, the rise of tablets poses a potential danger: that book buyers may switch to tablets and then discover that they just aren’t very amenable to reading.

Will those readers gradually drift away from books, letting movies or the Internet occupy their leisure time instead? ...

Many publishers believe that the market for both print books and black-and-white e-readers is not going away, despite the pull of tablets.

Voracious book buyers were the first people to latch onto e-readers, prizing them for their convenience, portability and features like text zooming that made it easier for older people to read. Now those e-readers are lighter, sleeker and cost less than $100 — even a cheap tablet is more than double the cost — so tech-shy consumers who want a device just for reading books and not much else have little incentive to upgrade.

As long as e-readers remain significantly less expensive than tablets, there may be a market for them for a long time.

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From experience, I believe that the Kindle increases the volume of reading I do simply due to convenience. Anything you desire is right at your fingertips!

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Khoi Vinh has found one way that paper books trump electronic books:

One thing I had completely forgotten about is how communal popular books can be. A few people have spotted “A Game of Thrones” in my pocket or saw me reading it on the subway and then started friendly conversations with me about it, something that never would have happened if I were reading it on my phone, where every book is effectively invisible to everyone but me. I remember reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs on my iPhone just after it came out, at a time when lots and lots of people were reading it too, but I realize now that I was reading it in a kind of isolation, where people around me were unaware of the concurrency.

[...]

It would be nice if there was a way to replicate that part of the reading experience electronically too, that kind of real world happenstance that doesn’t require signing up or signing in to anything, just carrying around whatever book you’re reading and being open enough in your body language to welcome small talk from perfect strangers. It just goes to show you that the electronic reading experience has a long way to go, and all the time and effort we’ve been putting into crafting perfect layouts might be better used fleshing out some of the things that really make reading a rewarding experience.

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