how the digital age has transformed the way we read – The Oxford Student

Image Description: A Kindle on a Regular Book

I’m not old enough to pull all of the “back to my day, I read by candle light”, and I certainly can’t relate to the younger generation of readers who grew up reading in the dark. That last item, I don’t mean figuratively: Kindles, iPads, and other self-lit electronics have made it possible for us to continue reading after the main lights are out. To take this a step further, audiobooks mean that we can literally “read” with our eyes closed.

However, e-books have transformed our lives in more ways than just invalidating bedside lamps. Now we can carry a whole library in our jeans pocket and the complete works of Charles Dickens can be at your fingertips, just by pressing ‘download’. All of this from your living room.

I have to admit it was a blessing during the first few weeks of St. Michael’s Day. As a cooler, studying in the Bodleian library was a terrifying prospect, not to mention the faculty library … much safer staying in my comfortable top-floor room, with the kettle handy (although it was potentially more dangerous, as my friends will testify) and my entire playlist on SOLO – all without the intimidating sound of a relentless typing.

Mention JSTOR to any humanities student and the answer you get is likely to be close to that of a fan asked about their favorite celebrity. I have yet to meet an English student who has not written an entire essay using last minute JSTOR articles – to say we “love it” is not an exaggeration given that it is a lifeline. rescue for most of us.

What’s not to love about online articles?

What’s not to love about online articles? There is no denying that an F control search is much faster than using an index to find a keyword or passage, and this can be easily copied into notes or an essay for direct reference. Scrolling, more than skimming, saves precious time which (when your to-do list is double-sided) can make the difference between six or eight hours of sleep.

But – and it’s a big but – there’s something magical about a physical book

But – and it’s a big but – there is something magical about a physical book. Friends with hay fever wouldn’t agree, but I love the musty smell of old books. It’s as if the words inside had more power in their antiquity, like preserved relics from a bygone age. I love the texture of the paper between the fingers and the sound they make when rotated against a flat, still computer screen. I even like to read pencil scribbles in the margins or between the lines, testimonials from previous readers and thoughts they left behind – although more often than not this is an argument about the morality of writing. in a book.

Now we can carry a whole library in our jeans pocket

The online consensus on this ebook / print divide seems mixed, with some complaining of eye strain from reading a screen, and others claiming that their eyes benefit from the ability to enlarge the font size. . I did, however, come across a interesting diary from San Jose State University studying brain activity and reading behavior with electronic texts. He found that digital documents prompt us to read in a “non-linear” pattern where our eyes scan the entire web page, searching for keywords rather than deep reading. The kind of immersive slow reading needed to tackle Odysseus or a 2kg biology textbook is replaced by rapid information processing. According to their results, we have less focus and sustained attention when reading online – but that shouldn’t surprise us.

Essentially, we read novels, textbooks, and articles online the same way we treat our social media feed: scrolling until something catches our eye, which never lasts long before something does. else does not distract us. Yes, we can save ourselves hours of reading information unrelated to the title of the essay, but it might come at a cost. Are we losing the ability to fully engage with texts?

Are we losing the ability to fully engage with texts?

This is where audiobooks really flourish – arguably the best invention since I discovered that there are sets of chemical spices (cooking curries will never be the same again) and alarm clocks that launch rockets into the air. Although I hold back, there is no subtle way for me to express my love for audiobooks. I promise I’m not sponsored by Audible when I say it just changed my life.

Okay, that might sound like a big statement – but it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Whether it’s walking the dogs, commuting to work, or cooking dinner, audiobooks let you multitask. This ability to read while doing tasks that would otherwise be done silently or while listening to music is an efficient (and more interesting) use of time.

We read novels, textbooks, and articles online the same way we treat our social media feed: scrolling until something catches our eye, which never lasts long before something does. other does not distract us

What started out as a podcast on the benefits of green tea (the origin of my obsession) quickly turned into a monthly subscription to Audible to help tackle Oxford’s long playlists. It’s not just that I can increase the narration speed to x2.5 – the whole experience is much more enjoyable. I find myself laughing aloud at the ridiculous accents used by the narrator for particular characters, or enjoying more depth of emotion in melancholy passages that I probably would have read in the same flat tone (is that just me? whose internal voice reads everything the same?). This variety of voices can make a novel much more entertaining and much easier to follow, especially if the character roster is as long as that of The idiot.

Yes, there are a few drawbacks. It’s hard to highlight a particular passage you want to come back to later, and unlike physical books, you don’t have the pleasure of lending a friend or family member your copy of a book that you think they will appreciate it. Worse yet, my headbands, headphones, and other random household items can no longer pretend to function as impromptu bookmarks.

Despite this, I would still choose an audiobook over a physical book nine out of ten times. They can really bring characters in a novel to life, and I find it easier to remember information that I have heard than something that I have read. If that’s not enough to convince you, then consider audiobooks to solve the problem of onscreen insomnia: in our sleep deprived society, we might all need an extra hour in bed.

One thing is pretty clear: I will be applying for the position of Marketing Manager at Audible upon completion of this degree.

Image credit: Neilfein

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