I dislike reading on the computer. Forgive me if I sound old-fashioned, but it’s true.
For one thing, looking at computer screens strains my eyes much more than looking at an inked piece of paper. I already spend too much of my time looking at a computer screen – my entire paid working time, approximately 32 hours a week. At the end of the day it is more comfortable to sit down with a book than to spend yet more time staring at a screen (although I will admit that the lure of the internet is often too tempting in the evenings and on the weekends).
I also find it harder to stay focused on the content of what I am reading when I am reading on the computer. It is easier for me to get distracted by the vast universe of the internet when it is literally there at my fingertips. My mind wanders more as well. If I am reading an article or blog post I get overwhelmed by it being all there at once, available with the scroll of the mouse. It feels more tedious and less serious to read through an article on a website than to read an article in a magazine, and I find that I am less willing to give it the time it deserves. Some of these things may be due to the fact that I often procrastinate from work by “reading” (usually skimming) things on the internet, rather than inherent problems with reading on the computer. But I do think that there is something about reading on a computer and especially on the internet that promotes a lifestyle based on less focus and more multi-tasking. One partial cause may be that on a website, there is all sorts of other information on the page besides the content that you are trying to read. The distractions are literally right there in front of you.
I recently came across a book that sounds fascinating, but is a bit obscure: Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, by Judith Hand. It is not available at my library nor at any of the libraries with which mine is networked, but the author offers a free e-version of the book if you register on her website. One might think, what could be better? Free and instantly available! However, I have no desire to read the e-book version. If I decide I want to read it, I would rather spend the $15 to buy it from Amazon than read the downloadable version. I am certain that I will get far more out of it that way.
A few weeks ago I was traveling by plane and the person sitting next to me was reading on an iPad. I glanced over at it and it did not appeal to me at all. The screen looked pretty much like any computer screen, so I’m sure it would be harder on my eyes than a book. And I like holding the physical book, seeing the length, feeling the weight, glancing through chapters to gauge their length, flipping back to the table of contents, etc. Not to mention, you can read a paper-and-ink book during take-off and landing, whereas an iPad or Kindle would have to be turned off.
So there you go, my admission to old-fashioned ways. The internet is a great source of information and community. I love that I can have this blog and connect with other book bloggers. But I’ll continue subscribing to print magazines and buying/borrowing print books no matter where the technology goes.