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Are eBooks Making Us Dumber?

One of the most common discussions among readers is whether they prefer physical books or ebooks. Book owners tend to enjoy the feel, and even the smell, of books. They also enjoy filling up their bookshelves as an homage to all their favorite authors. Ebook readers on the other hand tend to be the on-the-go reader. With an ebook, you can have all books in one place, making them easily accessible at any time (an obvious advantage to physical books).

The argument goes even deeper than that. Reading from different mediums can change how you read and even change how writers write. Naomi Baron‘s book Words Onscreen explains how reading patterns have changed since the advent of digital publishing.

Reading from a device promotes distractions in the reader. While getting through a dull chapter, the reader may suddenly remember that they have to send an email or update their Tinder profile. Instead of getting comfortable with a good book for 2-3 hours, people are reading in short bursts during their day. Because of this new reading style, the reader tends to read shorter, more accessible books.

Publishers have taken note of this phenomenon. Authors are being pressured to write simpler books instead of pursuing their magnum opus. Novelist Joanna Scott expressed her discontent over MFA programs that teach writers to “produce a solid, sellable product…a good read, distinguished by gripping plots, reliable research, and clear, unfussy writing – rather than a work of art”.

 

We must always be weary when trying to define something as art. Art itself is an incredibly amorphous concept that seems to be more subjective than objective. Who are we to determine whether or not something is considered art? The silver lining here is that, if it is true that books are becoming easier to read, they are also becoming more accessible to potential readers. Perhaps bookworms like us should put down our elitism and accept the new wave of short attention span readers our society is creating.

This brings us to what makes a book special to the reader. Books are traditionally known for creating a world that the reader can immerse themselves in. Books are about escape, wonder, creativity, and imagination. In my opinion, as long as a book is able to achieve those elements, the length or depth does not matter.

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