I have been reading a lot this afternoon about the problems or advantages of reading online as against the conventional book, magazine or newspaper.
I have to admit that I tend to read mostly online these days. My reading material is wide and includes blog posts, articles from various academics that I follow, the numerous posts in Facebook, the occasional Tweets on Twitter and various other material that I might come across on a day-by-day basis as I surf the net.
I have also purchased a number of e-books on Kindle and have found some “free” (or freely available) books that I have downloaded.
I recently did a MOOC on Social Psychology from Wesleyan University on Coursera. This led me to download articles and one book on the subject. I also bought two excellent hardback books due to interest in the subject which I had the pleasure of reading at my leisure and without running down my tablet’s battery!
When reading various articles I often come across references to books or other articles that I look up and I save my material on “Pocket” so that I can catch up with it at my leisure.
I have become a “Digital Age Reader” not by design but because the world of information has moved on from the “book based society” of my youth. This is the world that many of our younger generation are growing up in. You can debate the pros and cons of the “feel” of a book as against the ephemeral screen that is here one minute and can be lost, possibly forever, the next.
I do though read and I read widely. I have access to an incredible richness of material. I cannot ever hope to read everything that I already have as a collection of “must reads” in Pocket, no mind the numerous material that I will put onto it in the future. But that is not the point. I read and read with interest. Yes, it gets tiring and I do not have the ability to flick back pages and savour a paragraph or page so that the book will fall open on that much read and re-read page.
But the world has changed and so have I. I believe that we should not dig our heads in the sand and pretend that there is value in a return to a totally paper-based society. We need to understand that there are losses in the direction that we have taken but there are numerous advantages too.
Just as in the past, the real question is not whether to read electronically or on paper but what to read. I try and choose quality material and occasionally I fail and move on to something else. We should be training our children to understand how to choose and further their skills in critical reading by whatever medium they choose.