Author Asks: Are Tablets Changing the Way We Read and Write?

  • While tablets essentially allow users to have an entire bookstore in their hands, they also may lead to a reduction in readers’ attention to the content within the books.
  • Books require your attention to have a serious conversation with them. This conversation can become broken when we flip to another book, movie or social media connection. Today, there is less downtime (time required to “engage” with the written word) and more desire for immediate electronic stimulation.
  • “Many embrace this kind of electronic Darwinism as not only inevitable but preferable: complete freedom of choice — choice of what to buy and consume — has long been a mantra of the marketplace, and its advantages are inarguable,” writes novelist Andrew Winer for The Wall Street Journal. “But the marketplace has also produced its share of inconvenient effects, and, in the case of handheld screens, whether in tablet, phone, or e-reader form, it’s hard not to notice a few. A loss of good conversation may be one of them; a loss of good contemplation may be another.”
  • Tablets are also impacting the way writers engage with content, as Winer suggests, “here I’m speaking about how I use a book: how I write in its margins, in between its lines, even over its words. A writer reads a book and records the ensuing conversation/argument, throwing in her or his new ideas for good measure. Sure, the tablets and e-readers allow you to take notes, but the keyboards are clumsy and accessing the notes for later use clunky.”
  • Additionally, content offerings are being impacted by these technologies as an increasing number of authors are choosing to write about these trends “by producing works that celebrate (even as they mock) our addiction to the technological drip and the short attention spans entrained by that addiction.”
  • What are your thoughts? Are you able to “engage” with a book in the same way on a tablet?