How Technology Is Changing the Way We Read

Technology affects our daily lives on a daily basis and as advancements seem to be happening more quickly than ever, we find ourselves doing things that were a mere speculation, fantastical idea or farfetched dream only a few years ago. For example, would your 14-year-old high school student self ever think it possible to carry around a whole library of books in one handheld sized gadget? Probably not, but in 2014 the Pew Research Center reported that a whopping 50% of American adults over the age of 18 now own an e-reader or tablet.

There are arguments to suggest that e-books both promote and discourage a strong reading culture. You only need to look around on a beach during the summer holidays to see that reading is still very much a popular pastime. Although the ease of accessing a global collection of books is undeniable, the way we read has changed and studies show that we skim pages like the letter F (top line, scroll down, read a few more lines), so the case may be that we are not appreciating full works of fictional novels or absorbing the essential information in non-fiction releases. However, Guardian writer Paul Mason said that the ability to highlight and share favorite passages, or instantly find dictionary definitions of words, is not lazy but rather a more contemporary learning strategy.

It’s not just e-books that people are reading literary pieces on either. The same 2013 USA Today poll found that 32% of Americans now own tablets and 35% of those use the devices to read more books than they ever did before. This can be seen through consumption of cult fiction like 50 Shades of Grey, tablets and e-readers were by far the most popular devices used, with sales figures showing digital downloads were six times higher than paperback sales. If you’ve already devoured the whole series then fear not, Christian Grey’s escapades are no longer confined to literature, there is a full range of 50 Shades products available.

Tablets and e-readers aren’t the only pieces of technology used, American linguist Naomi Baron said that a large proportion of young people even read e-books on their mobile phones, while queuing for a coffee or making the daily commute. In reading in this way, it is easy to be distracted by emails, phone calls, and social media. But this is not necessarily detrimental to reading – the need to talk about the latest cultural phenomenon in the digital sphere encourages people to carry on reading more. The poll showed that 19% of readers will read a novel just to be able to discuss the book with others. Excellent examples of this include Stephenie Mayer’s Twilight and Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman.

The poll also showed that 72% of readers look to learn something from a book and 64% read to be entertained. One of the biggest factors that causes people not to read as much as they would like to is a lack of time. The convenience of an e-book can help people who don’t have time to go book shopping, or don’t have room in their work bags to carry around the latest large volumes. So if you haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, tablets can be picked up cheaply from Tesco Direct, and spice up your commute to work!

The introduction of Penguin books in England just over a hundred years ago ensured that all classes had the opportunity to purchase and read books. Prior to that you either had to be rich or own a library card. Although we may be sceptical about the inevitable changes in the way we read, they can only continue to fit into our equally changing lifestyles. We will look back, as we do to Penguin and see them as positive steps forward in the literary and technology worlds. 


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Ive been blogging now for 5 years on various sites for the love of knowledge share. I decided to start my own blog a few years back to share everything from tech to business news. Follow me on twitter for more.