I discovered (in the Columbian sense) linguistics professor Naomi Baron‘s work while I was doing my MA research, and I loved her book Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Now she’s back with a new scholarly book sure to be of interest to readers of ScratchTap: Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.
In this new book, Baron considers the difference between reading on electronic devices and reading in print, calling upon a broad array of historical and scientific sources from diverse disciplines. She drives home the points that reading is becoming more social, that the “container” may be just as important as the content when it comes to reading, that the concept of ownership is getting more and more nebulous, and that, even in the digital era, vast swathes of the reading population still prefer print books. Though electronic texts certainly have their merits (for one, convenient search), Baron draws the general conclusions that digital texts generally discourage reading longer texts, rereading, deep reading, memory, serendipity and strong emotional involvement.
This final point—emotional involvement in experiencing documents—is exactly what I plan to pursue in my PhD studies, and I’m grateful to Professor Baron for having established so eloquently a further need for research in this area. Many who prefer print books point to “physicality” as the source of their preference. But how, exactly, does physicality contribute to experience? That’s my research area, so you can expect to see further related posts in the future.
If this sounds interesting, but not enough to actually read the whole book, check out this recent interview article with the author.