Monday, June 23, 2008

Confluence of Blog Reading

Today my blog reading lead to an interesting thought. Track along with me if you will. First I came across this article on Kindle via Alaina. Actually I'll quote what she quotes. (Thanks for highlighting the pertinent parts of the post, Alaina!)
The Kindle does a fine job of being a book reader, and a horrible job of actually improving the act of reading a book. This is a surprising design choice, I think, and a mistake. Here are three simple examples of how non-fiction books on the Kindle could be better, not just cheaper and thinner:
--Let me see the best parts of the book as highlighted by thousands of other readers.
--Let me see notes in the margin as voted up, Digg-style, by thousands of other readers.
--Let me interact with hyperlinks and smart connections not just within the book but across books
I can think of ten others, and so can you. Instead of making this a dead end (like a book) they could have made it a connector (like the web).
Word processing didn't work because it was typing but a little cheaper. It worked because it was better than typing. Email didn't work because it was mail but a little faster. It worked because it was fundamentally better than snail mail...

So Kindle would work better if it revolutionized the way we read books, the way the internet and email have revolutionized their respective spheres. But should we do that to reading? Because here's what I came across a few blogs later (HT John Green). And I have to say I didn't even finish reading the article because it was too long with too many sections. I have all intents to read articles on the internet with the same depth of interest and attention that I do to books. And I haven't noticed too much trouble with attention span, but that's because I've always been aware of my inattention as a reader and if interest is lacking I tend to bribe myself with moralistic goal-setting (i.e. reading Crime and Punishment will make you a better person). But if we make books more interactive like Seth Grodin suggests, attention will have more chance to be diverted and successful completion (defined in part by retention) will become less and less plausible. And I don't know that that's a good thing.

And reading or lack thereof has been the rage today because there's also talk of books you despise (defined as books you can't finish) at Time online (HT Bookshelves of Doom).

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