Your Brain On Ebooks


PET-image by Jens Maus, Public Domain.

I’ve been reading an interesting article from Scientific American about the disadvantages of ebooks.

It talks how people like to flip through books, and how they can’t do this on ebooks. Maybe in the future someone will invent an ereader with flipmode, where pressing a button brings the reader to a random page.

Apparently, people enjoy the sensory aspects of traditional books, like turning pages and highlighting sentences. I don’t care for either of those. Turning pages feels like unneeded labour when my Kindle can show me a new page with only a twiddle of my thumb. The sensory aspects of paper books aren’t always pleasant. An ebook never gets damp or have its pages torn. Ebooks are also much lighter, with my Kindle Keyboard allowing me to carry 3,500 ebooks in one hand.

The article mentions ‘haptic dissonance’, which is when two books of unequal length have the same physical presence in ebook form. Their example is that ebook versions of a Hemmingway story and War and Peace would weigh the same. In the menus, the Kindle shows the different size of books by drawing a dotted line under the book’s title, in proportion to the book’s length. When you’re reading ebooks on a Kindle, there’s also a bar showing you much of the book you have left to read. These things don’t make up for the apparently uncanny effect of all ebooks weighing the same.

The article says that many of these difficulties are a matter of attitude. I agree, someone who grew up on ereaders wouldn’t miss turning pages.


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