Why God Gave Us a Book Instead of a Nook

My 18-year-old son, Michael, recently told me that he does almost all of his reading on electronic devices. As his dinosaur-era father, I read almost exclusively from physical books.

126486493All three of my adult children have grown up in the amazing time of the Internet. Certainly there are benefits—such as convenience—to reading books and articles in electronic formats (my church class even graciously presented me with a Kindle as a gift)—yet I have not been able to transition to it. Thus, I carry more luggage on my flights than my technologically-adapted friends. I guess I’m just an old-fashioned, bookish guy.

I love not just reading and learning but especially reading while holding a book in my hands. I’m convinced that at least in part my strong ability to remember, reflect upon, and utilize what I’ve read is actually tied to reading a physical book. Marking, outlining, summarizing, dog-earing a beloved volume—making the book my own—is critical to gleaning knowledge and wisdom. Plus, I just like the way physical books feel and smell.

Reading and Mental Maps

Lumosity, the organization that offers brain training through online games designed by neuroscientists, released a Google Plus post on February 24 that reports that reading physical books (or from paper) has advantages over reading on an electronic device.

Reading relies on areas of the brain dedicated to object recognition, meaning your brain creates a mental map of the entire text and uses physical placement to remember content (for example: bottom corner of the left page). Most digital devices interfere with this ability to map text, which can inhibit reading comprehension. In addition, scrolling can use up cognitive resources by forcing you to concentrate on the text’s movement—and the more attention you divert to motion, the less you have to spare for comprehension.

The Lumosity post sites a Scientific American article entitled “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: Why Paper Still Beats Screens.” (And, yes, I recognize the seeming hypocrisy of appealing to an online article to support the idea that there are benefits to not reading online and then writing about it on my blog.)

A Reading Evangelist

As an educator and philosopher I am an evangelist for reading generally, but especially for reading great books. And while I prefer physical books to e-readers—and can now support my preference with a scientific study—I think that if a person reads, whether they read from paper or screen is unimportant. But it does make me again appreciate that, as a historic Christian, I am part of that community known as the “people of the Book.”

6 responses to “Why God Gave Us a Book Instead of a Nook

  1. Except that a Kindle or a Nook does not scroll but rather has pages that you “turn” and can resize as needed. That still probably does not help with the idea of physical placement of specific sentences on a page, but I think the quoted article was comparing physical books to surfing the internet. Personally I find a narrower text (i.e. a Kindle/Nook) easier to follow, requiring less eye or head movement to follow the text. Also I can bookmark, highlight or copy a portion of text and can do a search for a specific term. Just in case you needed another point of view. Thanks for all you do Ken.

  2. There’s also the tangibleness of a book: physically flipping a page, dog-earing, etc.I like those aspects.

    Kenneth, try looking into some of the speed-reading applications for the iPad (ex: Fastr.) They take digital reading to the extreme by flashing up 1-3 words at a time on the center of the screen based on the speed you select.

    This avoids losing your place moving from line to line. It actually has increased my reading speed and comprehension. If it’s not heavy reading (philosophy, theology, etc.) I can cruise along at 400 WPM no problem with full comprehension. Anything dense or totally new information and it doesn’t work so well.

  3. When I first got Logos, I sold several hard coupes in a garage sale. I regret that to this day. I like the handiness of electronic books. You mentioned travel as an example. However, I do like actual paper better.

  4. Appreciate you comments, Joe.

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