A Kindle under the covers

(image from IndieReader)

I talked to a woman recently who grew up during the Great Depression. “We didn’t have much,” she told me, “but we always had books. We also had a good public library and the McGuffey School I went to had one of the best school libraries in the state.” Living in a college town much like Harrisonburg, she told me that she also had access to the college’s library. Without the distractions of television, easy-to-access movies and video games, she grew to love reading. Now, at 84, she is still a voracious reader.

While her devotion to books hasn’t changed, the platform for reading has expanded. All devoted bibliophiles and avid readers are faced with more and more options as technology swallows the book industry. Traditional book lovers who appreciate the tactile sensation of holding a book — who even love the smell of old book stores — are dismayed at the flood of new e-books. They all remember the pleasure of getting completely lost in another world or sneaking a book under the covers to read by the glow of a flashlight. For me it was climbing high up in a tree and devouring one Nancy Drew book after another.

A Kindle under the covers just isn’t the same.

Others, however, point to some decided advantages the new platforms offer, such as keeping textbooks up-to-date with the latest scientific discoveries and publishing in a more environmentally sustainable way.

Still there are clearly downsides. Martie Smith (’97M), a school librarian in Northern Virginia, told me that she has yet to find an e-reader that offers children the same experience as a colorful, oversized picture book. Then again, is there an advantage for children in electronic books that add an interactive component?  Critics also cite issues of battery life — and what happens when you want to reference or read again a book you first discovered a decade earlier. Unlike a hardback or paperback that you could pull off a shelf and dust off, your electronic book may have disappeared into a chasm of outmoded technology.

So the debate rages on and the changes continue. What’s a reader to do?

One JMU senior is shedding a little light on the debate. Honors student and senior psychology major Leah Hartman Densmore  has studied and compared the experiences of reading traditional books with the new e-readers. Using eye-tracking software and scientific methodologies, Leah came up with some unexpected results.

By adding scholarship and science to the ongoing battle between books and their modern counterparts, Leah is helping us all make up our minds.

To learn what Leah discovered,  visit http://www.jmu.edu/jmuweb/general/news/general11928.shtml


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

3 Responses to A Kindle under the covers

  1. Pingback: B is for Books « shanjeniah

  2. grahammb says:

    The portability IS tough to argue with. And, of course, the technology will only get better. Maybe the “what” (as in what we’re reading) is more important than the “how.” Thanks for your perspective.


  3. Tom says:

    Yup. At one point I had read all the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift books. Then through school, graduate school and professionally I had to read to survive and thrive. So-called “recreational reading” was a luxury. Now, in retirement, ebooks go everywhere with me via Kindle, the Kindle Android app and the Kindle reader on my laptop. They all stay synced. The 99-cents books on Amazon’s Facebook page have introduced me to some authors and genres I would not have sampled. My wife laughs at the size of the typeface I use, but that flexibility allows me to accommodate tired eyes and tri-focals.

    I would agree with Leah’s findings that I read a bit more slowly, but that also may simply be my savoring of the written word — electronic or otherwise.


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