Holding on to Books

If time travel and/or prognostication were truly possible, and someone had given me this article when I first started teaching English—way back in 1990—I’m fairly certain I would have had no idea of what it speaks:

“Can you concentrate on Flaubert when Facebook is only a swipe away, or give your true devotion to Mr. Darcy while Twitter beckons?

“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.

“E-mail lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away.

“That adds up to a reading experience that is more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity. And some of the millions of consumers who have bought tablets and sampled e-books on apps from Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble have come away with a conclusion: It’s harder than ever to sit down and focus on reading.”

This appeared in The New York Times this week; and though it has received its fair share of flak for being “a day late and a dollar short,” the concentration of terms was not lost on me.

Facebook.  Twitter.  E-books. iPad. Tablet.  Kindle.  Netflix.  Apps.

In just 22 years, the face of reading has changed and inspired a whole new vernacular.

And, no, it’s not news of the day.  But as a parent, it’s worth noting what is lost when we introduce our children to reading on a tablet as opposed to handing them a book.

A tablet, despite all its promises, does not invite you to linger, to get lost—which is exactly what you hope for your child when he or she turns the pages of a favorite book.

A tablet almost commands you to multitask, to move quickly, to get in and get out.  It tempts you to find something else to do if the book you’re reading ceases to please—or becomes too challenging.  A tablet contributes to our rapidly shrinking attention spans.  It may even be one of the causes.

All this makes me wonder why our world is such that we no longer do just one thing at a time–why we don’t want to, why we can’t.

And it makes me want to keep putting paper books in front of my children for as long as I can—because I know technology will always be there.  Sadly, I just don’t think I can say the same thing of books–which, in my humble opinion, are probably one of the few antidotes to our collective inability to focus.

So, yes, in this photo (which was not staged), you see a 1950′s desk, an abacus, and an actual book.

We’re not old-fashioned.  Just like with everything else on this journey we call parenthood, we’re hanging on by a thread.

10 thoughts on “Holding on to Books

  1. The difference between technologically enjoyed and enjoyed actually (in book form)
    is the difference between convenience and intimacy–not so much competitive as how each serves, and what the reader seeks.
    Peace,
    len

  2. What a beautiful picture to depict the sentiment. While I’ve made the leap to digital reading (for most books), it was mainly done to curb the hoarding tendency with traditional paper books. There’s just something special about reading a book to your child, you hold one side of the book and they hold the other, while little fingers slip across the page under the word they are reading to you. Thanks for the reminder that there are many components to “how” you read.

  3. My grandchildren, who are avid readers, and who are also travelers, enjoy the luxury of owning kindles. They always have an ample supply of reading material on hand, which is wonderful. The kindle does not replace traditional paper books at all, and it could never replace reading to a child. As an older reader, the kindle has certainly made my life much easier. I can rock a sleeping baby and hold my “book” and turn pages with one hand! I carry 3 weeks worth of vacation reading material in my purse!

  4. As one who works in the tech industry, spends 8-10 hours a day in front of a computer, owns a smartphone, receives texts, emails and voicemails hundreds of times a day, I place a value beyond measuring on the times when I get to sit down with a book in my hands and shut out the world of screens. These times are far too few for my liking and, in fact, I am striving to reduce the screen time in my day. So I won’t be purchasing a Kindle or Nook anytime soon. At some point, we need to ask ourselves “Convenient, yes. But to what end?”.

  5. Although I personally prefer my text on paper, I did buy my husband a Nook for Christmas because he travels more than I do and it was getting cumbersome to pack his books for trips. I decided on the Nook because it is pretty much just an e-reader. No email, no advertisements, no nothing….but books.

  6. Nightly reading, from actual books, is one of my favorite times with our toddler. I feel much the same way as you do. I love to get lost in a book! I have asked my husband specifically NOT to gift me with an e- reader.

I would love to hear your thoughts . . .

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