We all know that Ebooks are huge and here to stay. We all know that print books will always have a certain allure that us true bookies will always desire. So what happens when a book-lover/author reads only Ebooks for two straight years?
When I first got a smart phone with that beautiful thing called a Kindle App I was, let’s say, cautiously curious. Being a dyed-in-the-wool book lover my family library was a big deal to me. My husband and I have invested lots of time, money and TONS of space in our home to creating a book-rich environment. We filled it with only the best titles to speak to our children’s hearts and inform their characters as well as their imaginations. Eight large bookcases filled (and overfilled) with books has been the result – so far. And we read like crazy in our home. Our children had access to scads of titles and our library trips brought even more pretty, paper visitors in.
I couldn’t help wonder what this emerging Ebook wave would mean for my children’s reading future.
But my reading habits were the ones that changed the fastest. That tiny Kindle screen on my phone beckoned me with instant gratification and constant access. My Ebook library quickly grew and within less than six months I found myself doing almost all my reading on that Kindle app, my printed books laying forgotten to the side.
I still read to my children but it was almost exclusively from books we already had on the shelves. For two years this reading change progressed until I woke up one morning and realized that I was feeling more disconnected from the world than I ever had wanted to be.
There is something about reading on a screen that changes the way your brain interacts with the content. I’m not a scientist or doctor so I can’t explain the change but I can feel it. My attention span decreased, making it harder and harder for me to stay engaged in the book I was reading. On the flip side, sometimes I was so focused on that screen that I actually felt withdrawal symptoms (headaches, depression, etc) when NOT reading.
But come on! It wasn’t like I was playing that Furious Fowls game for three hours a day. I was reading! I’d always read that much (or more). This was something noble, right? Why should I feel like I was so distanced from my family. Words on a page and words on a screen were still just words. It was still just a book. Right?
Well, here are some of the negative effects I experienced from reading exclusively on a screen:
– eyestrain was a big one. Even though I got a tablet (increasing the screen size) a year and a half ago, there is something different about that screen.
- we no longer went to the library regularly. Need a book? Sure! I can download that for you in thirty seconds or less. No more browsing through bookshelves and being drawn in by a cover or a tantalizing blurb.
- depression. This is by no means a direct result of Ebook reading. But I do believe that the time on a screen, the disconnect that I experienced, was at least a contributor in this issue for me.
- shortened attention span. I mentioned this already. I think. Or maybe . . . oh, look! A chicken!
- an increased habit of checking my phone with increasing regularity. I spent so much time with my phone or my tablet doing all that reading, that I became completely dependent on it.
- lack of sharing what I was reading with my children. With my print books, I would always be one to say, “Listen to this line.” Sometimes it was just a laugh-out-loud reading moment that would prompt my children to ask what I was reading and why it was funny. That would lead to great sharing moments. For some reason, that diminished with Ebooks.
- lack of the book-virus effect. Many times a print book would be enjoyed by one member of the family and then passed from person to person as we each read and enjoyed it, then discussed it at length. And on to the extended family and friends, creating a great community feeling of sharing a common love for a story. I wasn’t able to pass my Ebooks around like that and my recommendations didn’t always do the job.
- less note-taking. I’m a conversational reader who writes in almost all of my books. Questions about the story, ideas that strike me as applicable, favorite quotes underlined, references to other books I’ve read that have a link. One of the reasons that my friends and family have liked borrowing books from me (so they’ve said) is the notes in the margins. Yes, you can create notes in an ebook, but it’s such a dry, clinical setting.
- a general dissatisfaction with reading. This was something I had never experienced since I first read The Little Princess at age 8. I’ve always been a book lover but now I was desperately unsatisfied with the experience I was having. I chalked most of it up to the fact that I was spending so much time learning the skills of quality writing – it was natural I should be more critical. Right? Whatever the reason, I was having a harder and harder time truly loving anything new I read.
So, with these negatives why did I stick it out so long? Oh, that instant gratification! Oh, the convenience! How wonderful to hear about a book from a friend, get online right there and download a sample! That was how I started managing my to-be-read list. Samples were amazing. And I always had a book with me – in my pocket (or my other “girls-only” pocket) or purse. Not just one book, but dozens and dozens of books. And when I finished one book in a series, thirty seconds later I could download the next one and be on my way. It’s a beautiful, tempting thing.
Finally, a couple of months ago, I made a decision to take a break from Ebook reading for a time. I had recently purchased a couple of wonderful new print books (Shannon Hale and Carol Lynch Williams titles) and I dug into the tactile pages with relish!
What a difference! I connected with those books in a way I hadn’t for years and I suddenly found myself more in love with reading than I’ve been in a long, long time. In that simple experiment I found that I am no longer a passionate lover of the Ebook movement.
I still read occasionally on my tablet. Some books are only available in that format and when I’m traveling it’s just too convenient. But our library trips have resumed, the stacks on my nightstand are back and those delicious pages with their special bookish smell feel oh-so good under my fingers as I turn each one with breathless anticipation.
I fell out of love with Ebooks and rekindled my love for the written word. I’m sure that over time I will figure out a nice hybrid between the two formats – convenience and cost vs a whole-reading experience. But for now, I’m back in the world of living, breathing, amazing physical books.