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How e-reading will change the way we read and a new disorder for the DSM
After some hesitations - mostly due to paper book “nostalgia to be” considerations - I purchased Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. As I researched the field quite a bit before making the buy, I was not surprised to discover that reading books on an e-reader is extremely convenient. From the technology/business side, this reaffirmed to me again, the common notion that we are on our way towards another extension of the digital content revolution, which will probably resemble the one that occurred when MP3 players were first introduced.
But in this post, I wanted to share my thoughts on how I believe e-reading will change the way we read. Although the Kindle e-reader is quite new in my life, I already managed to make the following interesting observations:

(1) I read more in parallel – for some people this is the normal way of reading, for me until now it was almost always finishing one book/article before starting another. In contrast, I am now reading no less than 5 Books in parallel!
(2) I experiment more with the type of books I read – as it takes only a few short minutes from the moment you want to read something, until you can start reading, and as I always know I have “safe” alternatives I can count on stored on the device, I tend to be more experimental in the type of material I try out (compare that to waiting 3 weeks for a book to arrive, going to the post office to gather it and then discovering the 5 star it got on Amazon review was absolutely presumptuous to say the least…)
(3) I read in more moods and locations - reading accustoms better when you can select a mood matching title (e.g. serious, humorous, reflective, etc) or the reading material type (e.g. book, newspaper, etc). Also, when you have dozens/hundred of books with you on a low-weighting/small space taking device, you find yourself reading in new locations (e.g. waiting in line, in the subway, etc)

To summarize, I believe e-reading will cause people that like reading to read more, read more diversely and read more in parallel.

Lastly, judging from my enthusiasms from this new addition to my gadget inventory, I would like to copyright a new disorder by the name of e-readophelia (obsessive compulsive excessive e-reading disorder) which I believe I have been inflicted by severely since I acquired this game changing device.
Products Discussed
Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G, 6" Display, White - 2nd Generation
Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device (9.7" Display, U.S. Wireless, Latest Generation)

Hi Assaf,
Thanks for the very interesting and timely post. I've been thinking about similar issues having spent much of last weekend in an art museum. Usually I prefer to stand in front of a single painting for a long time. But crowded museums make that difficult. Plus there is the constant distraction of the next painting. Often the two are unrelated -- similar in style or period, but this aside, nonetheless in the process of saying different things. So one wanders about, one's eye caught suddenly by a speck of red across the room, or distracted by the size of a canvas in the next alcove; and from time to time reality intervenes, one's friends make comments, the tour group materializes out of nowhere, the gallery closes.

As a result of this I was trying to think whether my experience of each individual painting is better or worse in this environment than it otherwise might be. If I had a day to myself and nothing but a single great painting, in many ways my understanding of it (and experience of it) would be much more complete. On the other hand, there's something interesting which comes in the constant, suggestive interplay of visual images as one walks around a museum. So I can see, for instance, how you might find it stimulating to read many books at the same time.

On the other hand, I couldn't do this with music. The logic of a piece dictates a strong movement from start to finish; I wouldn't want to interleave different musical experiences. On a deep level, I suspect that I would not really enjoy doing this with books either; and with paintings it's more complicated; the jury's still out. Certainly all of the paintings I really love have been ones which, at some point or another, I felt compelled to simply encounter for some amount of time, without distraction.

I'm very interested to hear more about how the parallel experience of encounters with works of art changes one's perception of them, and of the act of encounter itself...
Well, first I must reserve myself by saying that the 5 books I am currently reading are far from being defined by me as works of art, so I’ll remark on the more general case.

It is a known fact that our sub-conscious mind continues working hard on things much after our conscious has moved on to think about completely different issues. This phenomena can be observed nicely when you think in length about an issue (personal or work related) and find it really difficult to find a solution until you let it go for a while, allowing your mind to loosely continue chewing on it. Then after some period of time (a few hours, days, weeks – depending on the issue), suddenly you get a Eureka and know what to do to get it resolved/solved/move forward. It is clear to you that your mind continued working seriously in your “absence” otherwise the Eureka wouldn’t have arrived.

Similarly, with more unconscious periods of time reserved for each book, you might get more by reading in parallel, than you would by reading sequentially. Don’t have enough data to answer that one. Maybe I’ll revisit this question in a few months when I have more empiric information (-:
I'd like first to note that perhaps your points are related Assaf. That is, because you experiment more with books, hence read books which might interest you less, you read them more in parallel as you are less absorbed in each. For example I have the same feeling as Mia describes when I walk sometime in the modern art part of museums with a bad modern art collection. Each work then absorbs me much less and I look at all of them in parallel you might say.

Some books fascinate us, we simply can't put them down and want as soon as possible to get back to them. It doesn't mean we always can, but many of us would want to simply read until we finish them. But some books don't absorb us as much and we pick them up and down, perhaps even like a chore to finish. It's not only a question of the book or the work itself, as Mia points out, but is influenced by how we encounter them. That is, your account perhaps witnesses a less intense interaction with the books you read, which was assumed to be the case by many in the discussion on Is the world ready for the kindle.

Your summary: "To summarize, I believe e-reading will cause people that like reading to read more, read more diversely and read more in parallel" sounds a lot like internet reading.
People read a huge amount on the internet, but it is a different kind of reading than reading fiction. I wonder how it will be when these meet. They will soon meet in machines like tablets, which will have a similar screen technology as the kindle which makes it easy to read, but also a monitor like screen for web. They already meet in the Kindle when reading newspapers and books all at once.


I don't want to sound like I'm against the kindle, as I think such machines also promise so much good, and I'm extremely excited about them. But your description does not abate my fears.
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Latest Post: April 17, 2012 at 8:05 PM
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