Ink & Glass

“No offense, but people from your generation don’t really know how to properly read anymore. Everything you read is off of your phone or some electronic device. You get nothing out of it.”

That was what one of my professors had said to our class a few months ago. And just like when anybody says ‘no offense’, offenses were taken. So much so that it started up a pretty heated debate that had nothing to do with our class topic: British Literature. A few agreed with what the professor had said whereas others, such as myself, did not. However, as soon as I announced myself as a ‘pro-device’ activist, I started to feel a little weird. Mainly because not too long ago I had sold my Kindle Fire to somebody else because I prefer reading printed books rather than on a device. Regardless, I stood by my decision that reading texts from a device should not be frowned upon. That sort of cognitive dissonance about where I should stand when it comes to paper versus electronic device really made me think about the whole issue for a while. But I didn’t get to really reflect on it, until now.

Around a week ago, I read two different texts and analyzed how I read them. One was a short story that I read online entitled “The Legacy” by Virginia Woolf. The next short story, “Old Woman Magoun” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, was printed out.

I will admit that it was pretty strange consciously reading the two texts. I’ve never thought of how quickly my eyes skimmed over lines or how long it would take me to finish a page. In truth, when I read, I don’t usually think about the outside world. I tune it all out to be absorbed in the words. However, I cast all that aside for this project to really understand how I truly am as a reader and if despite what my professor believes, I can gain something from texts read on a device. The following information is what I found for both texts:

 

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D E V I C E

“The Legacy”

  • There is a crack in my screen, so that is not awesome when reading a text. Still, I can see what the words say.
  • The font is sort of distracting. Although I’m not sure what typical font is used for texts, this one is not it. It’s pretty small, too. But my phone allows me to enlarge the text (definitely a bonus).
  • There are a lot of places in the text that are clumped together making it difficult to read. I almost feel exhausted after reading it. In the original text, I know it is broken up better. Regardless, I continue to understand the story.
  • It is tempting to keep scrolling. Although that does not have a major impact on my reading, it is different reading the text and not knowing what page I am on. Online, it is all put together in one unitary place.
  • A major, clustered paragraph was difficult to read. Many times I had to stop because it was so overwhelming. It was honestly so cluttered that I zoned out a few times. I like the typical paragraph structure in books. This online version did not have it.

 

 

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P A P E R

“Old Woman Magoun” by Mark E. Wilkins Freeman

  • I printed this off of my computer.It’s an image of the book opened up to the story so it feels like I really have the book in my hand. Plus, I can flip the printed pages rather than having to scroll, so that is a bonus.
  • The printer or the copier did not do a very good job with the second page. Some of the text was cut off. I can piece the words together, but I know that had I read this online this wouldn’t be an issue.
  • I can definitely understand what the text is trying to say. My eyes are, for some reason, taking the text a little slower than when I read off of my phone. Perhaps it’s because the author has a lot of de  scriptive words than the other or because when reading online it’s easier to go faster.
  • Flipping the page is always satisfying to me. You can’t get that online.
  •  When putting it away I have to be careful not to mess up the pages. If that happens, the whole text could be messed up or ultimately unreadable.

 

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THE VERDICT

After reading the two texts, I can confidently day that I understood them very well. My interpretation of the texts did not change depending on how I read it. There were a few factors that made it more annoying. However, it did not impact my reading enough to where my understanding of the text changed. Therefore, what my professor said earlier, to me, was wrong. I felt like I really did get something out of the texts on both device and print.

However, I will say this: when it comes to reading for pleasure, I will 90% of the time want to read printed books. There are several different reasons for this that all pertain to personal beliefs. For example: I like the satisfying feeling of turning pages in the book. I like marking my book and seeing how much I have read. I like placing the book on my bookshelf along with the others. I like the smell of a new book. I like writing inside the text and highlighting quotes I find interesting. However, I will admit that there are downfalls to printed work. For example, if you are like me, you are very forgetful. I have misplaced my books several times before (and yes, I mourned over their loss). And books are not cheap. So replacing those suckers isn’t going to be easy. Or you could also be clumsy like me and spill stuff all over the book. I love the smell of coffee and books, but a book drenched in coffee just isn’t for me. Books get torn easily, wear out, fade away, and ultimately require a lot of care. Not to mention they take up a lot of space, which, depending on who you are might be a bonus. But I digress. Paperback, to me, is not flawless and definitely has its drawbacks, but I do have a more personal attachment and preference to them.

With all this being said, I probably sound like someone who needs a t-shirt reading ‘Team Paperback!’. And you might be right. But as stated before, I would only use paperback 90% of the time. I do actually read stories online for pleasure. Not all the time, but I have been known to really enjoy online texts. I mainly read e-books (electronic books) on a website called Wattpad or on Kindle. And although I am not a fan of Kindle, I cannot deny that their books are really cheap (which is always a plus for college students). And as for Wattpad the books are completely free, although they are not finished or are rough drafts. Still, you can’t beat the low price of free. Without getting too personal, I will admit that I have medical issues that

Just as reading printed books have a personal meaning to me, as do reading on devices. Without getting too personal, I will admit that I have medical issues that sometimes keep me in bed for a long period of time. During those times, I don’t feel like getting up and going to the bookstore. However, my friend loaned me her kindle account and I could read books off of there. She was a really good friend, and even let me buy some books because they were only a dollar. So it was easy to read all sorts of books when I wasn’t feeling well. Regardless of the fact that I prefer printed texts, it does not mean that I will completely deny devices. I think that they do have their advantages. But of course, they have their disadvantages as well.

Kindle does try really hard to make the reading experience feel like reading a book. But I just couldn’t get used to the fact that I wasn’t holding an open book, but instead a screen. When I first read a story on a device, my mind would pause in the middle of a sentence to remind me “this is not a book”. It really interrupted my flow of reading. Or I would have to remind myself to press a button to go to the next page rather than turn it myself. And there is the blatantly obvious negative aspect of reading on a device: you have to keep it charged. Nothing is worse than your Nook dying right in the middle of a climax. It was annoying to have to consciously think about what to do in order to read the text, but still, I can’t deny that I have read off devices multiple times. (And I still do today).

As you can probably tell, I have had a very long debate with all of this. I have never been good with identifying myself as ‘completely x’ person or ‘completely y’ prson. Or in this case ‘pro-paper’ person versus ‘pro-electronic device’ person. I feel like when looking back at all of this and reflecting all my different experiences with the two, I am definitely someone who is in between. The only way to describe it will sound something like from a Dr. Seuss book.

“I love to read a printed book. I even enjoy reading on a Nook. I will read stories here or there. I will read stories anywhere.”  

Both sides have their strengths and weaknesses, but that comes with just about anything. I don’t think that I am a specific type of reader, I believe that I am just a reader. If it’s a good book, I will enjoy it. I will understand it no matter where or what I read it from. My interpretation is a whole other blog topic, but as far as reading goes, there is no real debate.

I am sure years down the road there will be others like my professor who do not like the path reading has taken. The same thing happened centuries back when the printing press first appeared. People had such a negative outlook on it before ever really giving it a chance, some even writing dramatic poetry about it believing that this was the end true intellect (I am looking at you, Alexander Pope). Clearly, the opinion about the printing press changed, so maybe the same with happen for reading on devices. It might take a long time, but change always comes with time.

So until then, read on the way you want to read.

 

Written by: Chelsey Dugger
For: Special Topics in Writing at MTSU
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