Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

March 7, 2012

Yet another post on Ebooks

Filed under: Books Related / Reviews,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:18 PM

Long time readers of this blog will remember (or atleast I would like to think so) that I am an avid reader and have been posting a lot about ebooks on the blog. Today I saw this article(Ebooks on Tablets fight Digital distractions) on NY Times which made me laugh. The article starts off with the following heading:

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.

Then gets more silly as it goes on, This excerpt was especially interesting:

“The tablet is like a temptress,” said James McQuivey, the Forrester Research analyst who led the survey. “It’s constantly saying, ‘You could be on YouTube now.’ Or it’s sending constant alerts that pop up, saying you just got an e-mail. Reading itself is trying to compete.”

Indeed, the basic menu for the Kindle Fire offers links to video, apps, the Web, music, newsstand and books, effectively making books (once Amazon’s stock in trade) just another menu option. So too with the multipurpose iPad, which Allison Kutz, a 21-year-old senior at Elon University in North Carolina, bought in 2010. She says her reading experience has not been the same since.

She is constantly fending off the urge to check other media, making it tough to finish books. For example, in late September 2010, she bought “Breaking Night,” a memoir about a homeless girl turned Harvard student. Ms. Kutz said the only time she was able to focus on it was on an airplane because there was no Internet access.

“I’ve tried to sit down and read it in Starbucks or the apartment, but I end up on Facebook or Googling something she said, and then the next thing you know I’ve been surfing for 25 minutes,” Ms. Kutz said.

Blaming tablets because you don’t have the self control to focus on one task at a time is a bit like blaming doughnuts or McDonalds for being fat because you don’t have the self control to stop eating. I read a lot on my tablet and I read a lot of paper books as well, and so far I don’t see a big difference in my reading experience or the time I need to finish a book on either platform.

I know some people have medical conditions that make it difficult for them to focus on one thing at a time (ADHD) but for most people the problem is a lack of discipline and self-control instead of an actual medical problem. The people who get distracted while reading an ebook will get distracted while reading a regular book as well. There is nothing that prevents a person reading a regular book from picking up the remote to watch a bit of TV or the phone to call someone or a laptop to surf the net. I don’t know Allison Kutz personally but I have a feeling that she would be hard pressed to finish a regular hardcopy book also without getting distracted in the middle.

These ‘studies’ seem very contrived and a conspiracy theorist could argue that the publishing houses are trying to scare people against buying ebooks and push them towards buying paper books. The following article in the Telegraph (Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society) doesn’t do anything to convince me otherwise either. People made the same claims about TV, Radio’s, VCR’s etc etc and we are still here… You can’t stop technology/progress, all you can do is adapt and work with it.

Well this is all for now, I will get off my soap-box and go back to my corner to finish this book I was reading.

– Suramya


  1. Well TV & other such things did damage people a lot…

    Comment by Arvind — March 7, 2012 @ 6:55 PM

  2. Hmm… Don’t completely agree with that.

    If you are talking about shows like Jersey Shore or any of the other reality shows then yes, you have to be brain damaged to watch them but there are plenty of other shows that are educational and useful.

    In the end it all comes down to balance, you need to balance the time spent watching TV with other activities as excess of anything is bad

    – Suramya

    Comment by Suramya — March 8, 2012 @ 2:11 PM

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