29 November 2007

Reading and e-books

I haven't made up my mind to actually spend money on one, but I am fascinated by e-book readers like the one from Sony. Just throw it in my backpack and - 160 books on tap. Of course, I don't go backpacking, but you get the idea.

Today the Wall Street Journal has a rather snide, though interesting, article by Daniel Henninger about the new Amazon Kindle. He seems to find this ironic:

It was hard not to notice that Kindle was born unto us about the same moment the National Endowment for the Arts released a report on reading's sad lot in our time. Amid much other horrifying data, it revealed that the average 15- to 24-year-old spends seven minutes daily on "voluntary" reading. Cheerfully, this number rises to 10 minutes on weekends.

He professes to be alarmed:

The NEA authors posit "greater academic, professional and civic benefits" with high levels of leisure reading. In other words, readers profit, at least in their souls, from time spent with works of the imagination or with books that explain the past. I agree.

Though he seems to be a bit ironic about this. After a tough day trying to discuss a book I assigned to class on Genghis Khan, I take the report at face value. We are in effect watching the demise of a literate culture based on a common data base encoded in literature and history. His following observation I do not find encouraging.

One criticism of the NEA studies is that they don't capture the "new" ways people read away from work. This means the Endowment doesn't validate new pastimes, such as reading text messages on cell-phone screens. Add the input-output of text messaging to the data base of readers and the daily voluntary reading time likely rises from seven minutes to six or seven hours.

Anybody want to read 900 pages of, say, War and Peace, as written in text message English?

Labels: , ,


At 29 November, 2007 18:21, Blogger jack perry said...

Yes, I think he's missed the point. Reading the departmental arguments on the new assessment requires a differently quality of thought than reading Dostoevsky. We are losing the latter kind of thought, methinks. I love the idea of the Kindle, for example, but would I actually use it it, and do I actually need it?

At 30 November, 2007 12:59, Blogger Clemens said...

You say Dostoevsky, I say Tolstoy.

For most reviews I've read so far, the Kindle is useful, fun, but weirdly shaped and way too expensive at $400. The Sony reader, otoh, is $300 (cheaper on e-bay), looks great, and seems to be more flexible since the Kindle uses a proprietary Amazon software.

Still, for riding the bus and wandering around campus to various coffee shops, as well as the once in a lifetime backpacking trip I may do before I hit 60, it would be useful. Now when the price falls....

At 30 November, 2007 13:08, Blogger Clemens said...

Another thought: the biggest drawback to all the e-readers is what is available to read on them. I have been checking and have been disappointed in both the selection and the price. I found one interesting non-fiction book that costs $150 hardback, and $120 for the e-book - which costs virtually nothing to produce.


Post a Comment

<< Home