Thursday, February 07, 2008

Readers and Technology

Everyone on this blog reads—loves to read, in fact. I would guess our guests and commenters are avid readers, too. And we’re all competent to varying degrees with technology. Even I’ve been able to get my thoughts posted here. Though I confess at first it took a few tries. (Uh oh, now I’d better confess to being Debby.)

I also enjoy listening to books in a couple of formats: in my case, CDs and iPod. Kindle may be the latest stab at allowing book-lovers to use a new (more convenient?) technology, and it will require adaptation on a number of levels. One will be authors’ rights. I have confidence that this will be worked out, though we writers might take some bumps and bruises.

What concerns me is the evidence that people are reading less, especially those under thirty. We’ve broached this topic in the blog on earlier occasions. I wonder about how this fact is connected to technology. Perhaps the pace of our lives, including the stimulation of our nervous systems by electronic devices, is replacing the desire to seek adventure via books. The world is a smaller place than it used to be, and information travels much more quickly.

But maybe it’s not just that reading and learning through books is being replaced. Years ago, when my kids were pre-school age, I read an article that suggested that the light impulses of screen technology might interfere with development of the part of the brain that processes language. This would be particularly important in children under three.

Despite educational TV, the article stressed that content of the program wasn’t the culprit. It’s the fast-paced visual images that lead to brain changes, and these changes take place in the cognitive areas where language is learned. One recent study shows toddlers who played with blocks did 15-20% better on language tests than kids who watched educational TV.

I don’t know how much we should worry, nor how much control we’ve got if we’re inclined to worry. I’ve got two kids. One’s an avid reader and one isn’t, and neither of them was allowed to watch TV during the school week. Saturday morning was a TV-fest, however. (I don’t think this hurt anyone, either.)

Human beings will always want to be entertained, but where will it originate in the future? I doubt books will go out of print (I hope not!), but maybe some creative thinking is in order. Do the trends combine visual and auditory entertainment? Should we writers be working on interactive video stories in addition to print? Maybe we should be clamoring to have our books uploaded—is that the term?—to Kindle. With royalties, of course.

Just some thoughts—I’d love to hear yours.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, librarian and freelance writer, I have similar concerns. The concept of virtual libraries is not something I approve of. Print books are a joy. Although I love the computer and spend a good part of my day on one, I enjoy taking a good book to bed with me at night.

Jacqueline Seewald
The Inferno Collection, a romantic suspense mystery thriller