I believe you’re really reading online, simply because I had the idea that reading is looking at a series of symbols somehow representing sounds, converting them into words in your head, and then converting those sounds into sentences conveying meaning.
Whether reading online is enough like reading a book to satisfy stodgy academics is another matter entirely. I know that there have been a number of studies showing that people doing things online tend to multitask, and that multitasking more often than not means doing several things poorly rather than one thing well. I believe those studies, based simply on anecdotal evidence (my friends and I have all noticed that our attention spans have shrunk as we’ve begun spending more time online). Of course anecdotes aren’t science, but the previous studies were.
One of the articles makes mention of the value of assessing information reliability. I agree that this is also an important skill, and I’m disappointed but not surprised that most mentions of it are in regards to information on the internet rather than all information everywhere. Of course any book may or may not reliable, or may be reliable only in part, since misprints, omissions, and unquestioned assumptions are all possible.
I remember reading of a court case a few years back where a woman prepared a meal according to the instructions in one of her cookbooks and then suffered complete and permanent failure of one of her organs (liver and kidneys seem equally likely, though I can’t remember which it was). What happened was that the author had left a crucial step out of the recipe which would have transformed a toxic raw ingredient into a safe one. I’m not sure how the case turned out–probably with a ginormous settlement–but the point is that even strictly procedural knowledge, in a book vetted and published by a multinational publisher, isn’t always reliable. So why shouldn’t people make the same warnings about print resources? Why this illusion of complete reliability simply because the information has been compiled, made tangible, and bound together?
At any rate–enough soapboxing.
Books On Your Phone
I’ve tried one of those lit-by-email services before; after a few weeks I canceled it for lack of interest. I like to do most of my reading away from the computer, where videogames, email, and chat programs are all not an option.
I thought that Reading Trails sounded interesting, so I went to the site and did a few searches. First I searched for the book GodHead, by Scott Zwiren, to see what was recommended.
God Head is a devastating and oddly touching autobiographical novel about a man suffering from bipolar disorder. The book serves more as a character study than as a plot-driven work of narrative fiction, and while I tend to be lukewarm towards works with little plot, the book is intense and memorable, and also features one of the most unusual and tender love scenes I’ve ever read. Though I’m in no hurry to read the book again (having last read it about 14 years ago) I still remember it fondly. But it book didn’t turn up in any searches on the site, so I couldn’t see what they might recommend.
I decided that God Head might be more obscure than I thought, so next I picked something I expected to be more popular. For this I chose Y: the Last Man. This led me through a short but interesting trail of post-apocalyptic fiction.
Intrigued, I tried Still Life with Woodpecker. It didn’t turn up. One Hundred Years of Solitude. The predictable list of magic realism, a book of “middle school angst,” and a book of classics. Blech. Artemis Fowl. No trails. Skim. No trails. Ender’s Game. A four-item list of tween reading. Nation. A list of Terry Pratchett books.
Verdict: Intriguing idea but it must be a young site. It needs much more content. I decided I’d set up an account at some point and see what I could add. But there are Things to do still, so that’ll have to be for a later post revisiting this one.
Online Book Communities
Overbooked: poked around a bit through their themed booklists (which took quite a lot of clicks to get to). I thought the list of apocalyptic fiction was fairly stodgy and unexciting, as was much of the list of “Cooked Books.” The list of books about gender identity consisted of two titles. Verdict: the site needs a lot of work, but I won’t be the one to do it.
Book Group Resources
LitLovers: I was an English major, have no interest in holding book clubs, and have read quite a lot from different authors about what it’s like to be an author. I may revisit this site to try one of the courses, but it’s not a big priority.
I love Metacritic but decided to skip it for this Thing.
BookBrowse: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Love Medicine, Satanic Verses all didn’t turn up. Fail.
Book 2.0 tools could help or hamper one’s experience, as could any tools. But most of these sites strike me as decent ideas which needed a lot more work put into them before they went public. C’est la vie.