They get poked, scratched, picked at, bent, ripped, dropped, stood on, licked, eaten, dribbled on,scribbled on and dropped in the bath amid a host of other abuses.
Despite that, they have endured, largely unchanged, for centuries. Certainly, they have more color and are easier to produce than ever before but, notwithstanding, Gutenberg would recognize a book today for exactly what it was.
What and how we read
For some hundreds, even thousands, of years, paper-based (parchment, papyrus, vellum etc) text was the only real way of transmitting the writing we did and, in most cases, reading was the preserve of the wealthy.
In recent centuries however, subsequent to Gutenberg’s moveable-type press, books became cheap to produce, and reading began to spread. Now, of course, we assume reading is a fundamental educational right, and something that we all ought to be able to do.
But reading is a skill; we have to learn how to do it and to become expert at it. No doubt you know people who picked it up easily and those who struggled to master it.
And in addition to there being competition for what we read, now there is significant competition for how we read. Do we read on screen, or on paper?
Paper natives and digital natives
Naturally, there’s a lot to be said for plain old preference. Some people just like the electronic format. Others just prefer paper. With preferences, each can defend their position. And there is an argument to be made for the brain preferring what its used to also, as new habits are hard to develop.
Online news has certainly become the preference for many (witness The Huffington Post) and newspapers have noticed rapidly declining readerships, but e-books and e-readers have not put books into the same position. In fact, book numbers are increasing, still. Moreover, a glance at my magazine store would suggest that there are an increasing number of magazines, also.
That said, my children are growing up with iPads, Kindles, smart phones and tablets. They are, in the vernacular, digital natives. I was, by contrast, a paper native. For many kids today, the preference, by dint of exposure, is for electronic over paper. For me, it’s paper. But for many of my peers, it’s becoming electronic as they spend more and more time online and less and less time with paper.
So for your children, and mine, what do they do? And not just our kids. What do you, and I, do? Is it better to read one form or another? Can we tell the difference? Does it matter? Do we care?
So here’s the take home bit
We’re going to work through this in three or four posts. I think there is an answer, and there are implications, but more on that later.
For now, I’m keen to find out what you do. Please take this quick survey to help us kickstart the conversation.
What do you think?
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