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Sunday, 24 August 2014


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Carol S

There's something about the connection between the brain and the arm-hand-pen to paper that works. Is it our early learning of writing? Would children who learn to use key boards very early have a better facility? I did have a young student once who could use a keyboard like a piano so this writing flowed, but usually I taught that writing first drafts onto paper worked better with a key board work later to polish and tidy or to rework.

Like your friends! Self made? Quite early arrivals though.


Hello Carol - that's really interesting, and a point I've heard/read other people make too so not uncommon. In what way did you find working with paper first was more successful (if you don't mind my asking)?

Mind and body, movement and thought, do seem to be connected in complex ways, don't they? I'm thinking of writers like Virginia Woolf who found walking helped her think. Perhaps hand-writing, like turning pages or walking, fires off something in the brain. But as you say, impossible to know whether this is innate or conditioned. Certainly a lot of writers do use only the keyboard and we can't know whether their work would be different if they had hand-written their first draft. Maybe typing has its effects too?

Thanks! Yes, they are homemade, as is a 'woodland cottage' too dire even for me to parade here although it has been played with relentlessly. They are a little early, but in my defence I just follow orders...


You, a dullard? Hardly. xo

The points you highlight for us here are very interesting, especially the later. It reminds me of how physically writing cursive by hand touches parts of our brain that word processing on a computer never calls forth. I wonder how our retention is effected...I know with my blogging that I read many more books much more quickly and the quality of my memory has deteriorated. Things were simpler, and slower, before I blogged about books.

One more quick thought. All of our curriculum is now online, instead of in teachers manuals. It's hard for me to access it quickly, refer to a certain page in a moment, as I used to do.

Desperate reader

I've been resolutely anti kindle (which I think is going the way of the mini disk player anyway) but about a year ago put a kindle app on my phone which I have found useful from time to time both for books that are very hard or expensive to get hold if in any other format and occasionally for some very trashy reading when I wouldn't want to keep a copy of the book in question. I've also bought some books I'd quite like to read (Neil gaiman) . My experience is that for reading on trains buses work break times etc it's a format that works quite well - but they're not necessarily occasions when I'm reading with maximum attention. Books I'd have read if I had paper copies by now have languished out of sight and mind. I'm doubtful about the research saying you don't take as much in though I guess time will tell.


Having studied literature at university, I was "trained" to read with a pencil in my hand. I still do that, marking passages I like, and adding my own observations and commentaries in the margins. Doing this helps me to digest what I'm reading, and I couldn't do it - or not easily - on a Kindle.

Also, I like books as physical objects: I like the physical action of flipping back and forward through the pages - and I also like to think of a book as "mine" - I like to be able to put it on my shelf of read books, adding it to my "collection"... All indicative of some kind of arrested development, no doubt.

Healthy or not, these are all reasons why I prefer reading books to using electronic devices.


I love your new friends!

I saw that Guardian article too and I don;t entirely trust it. I been reading almost daily on a kindle for five years and I can't really say that I have experienced any trouble remembering what I have read. I am just as engaged reading an ebook as I am a print book. I actually "mark" my ebooks more than my print books because I find it difficult to find passages after the fact. That said, there are certain books I would never try reading on my kindle. I would never have made it through Ulysses as an ebook. Anything that is terribly complex in language or structure I have to read in print so I can flip through the pages. Otherwise, I have read fluff and not fluff and had no trouble remembering things. I am currently reading Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd on my kindle and loving it!


I think that ease of access to books is the one really good thing about eBooks. :) I've been able to read out of print books that otherwise I might not have been able to access, and I get the occasional free eBook via netgalley, but I don't enjoy reading on a screen at all.

I tend to speed read eBooks and I don't take in as much information or remember it as well as I do when reading a paper book. I thought I would really love eBooks and was excited when eReaders first appeared, but I've owned quite a few over the years and have consigned them all to the 'forgotten' drawer, except my Kindle Paperwhite, which is the best one I've had so far. It is quite nice to buy Henry James' entire oeuvre for $2.50, or download just about any classic novel I feel like reading 'right now'. It's also handy to download samples of books to see if I want to read the paper edition, and I can access textbooks on my computer via a library to see if I need to read them.

I think that eBooks appeal to some people and not to others, and that's ok. They are good for elderly people with not such great eyesight, because they can adjust the text size, and they're also good for people who can't afford or access paper books, and they're great when you're ill and can't hold up a book for a long time, and when you're travelling. I prefer paper books, though, and only read eBooks occasionally. I think they're here to stay, but I don't think paper books will disappear any time soon.

I don't think you're a dullard at all! I miss a LOT of typos on a screen that I would pick up on paper and I always print important text before I proof it. I have to print everything important that I need to read, too, otherwise I just don't take it all in.


I certainly don't want to get into an ebook vs paper war, though I do honestly fear for the extinction of my beloved paperbacks. It is so hard to find a bookstore these days, and everywhere I turn, there is a space now unoccupied which formerly housed a bookstore. :( This is especially true of independent stores, though I sorely miss the beloved Borders chain as well.

I think one advantage I have for retaining info on my kindle vs my paperbacks is that I have the dictionary feature so handily available, as well as wikipedia. I have so often been too lazy to put down my paperback to go find a dictionary or go to my computer to look up something that I don't understand. Plus, it is so easy to highlight on the Kindle, whereas I don't usually write in the fiction paperbacks I own. :/ So I'm actually a little surprised about that finding you shared!

Thank you for the food for thought!


Oh my, thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments!

Bellezza, that is supposed to be true of 'hand' writing, isn't it? I remember reading about it. I am intrigued by what you say about blogging. I have had the opposite experience - that forcing myself to actually think about a book after I've read it, and write about it here, helps me remember it better. Did you previously write about what you read but on paper?

Our curricula are online too, I hate it and have to print them off. Our experience does reinforce the idea that paper is more suitable for some sorts of reading - at least, until we have adapted better to electronica.

Hayley, that's an interesting point - that people might be using e-readers in situations and for books to which they cannot devote a lot of attention, and that might affect (future) research findings. We're using the technology in ways which suit us best, but maybe recognising that for now we do read in different ways on e-readers?

Franky, welcome! I agree with you completely, I feel the same! But at some point, there has to be a Book Cull - at least, in this house - and that can be painful. Had I an e-reader I could probably avoid this, at least sometimes, although it's probably good for me to let go of things now and again.

Stefanie, no, I don't think the study was a particularly good one since at the very least one should be including lots of experienced e-reading people - it is a different way of encountering a text and must take a while to accustom oneself to. And even then, it seemed that the only disadvantage the e-reading group had was remembering the order of events in the story, it wasn't that they failed to retain anything. Still, I notice that you too prefer paper for certain types of books, those through which you need to flip, like the teaching documents Bellezza and I use, so for you too there seem to be advantages to paper in some circumstances.

Violet, yes, e-readers have played an important part in making obscure and rare books available to everyone, that's an excellent point and really the only reason why I toy with the idea of purchasing one. Interesting though that you actually don't like reading on them. And of course that you share my problems with proofreading on-screen - that does make me feel less dullardy :)

Welcome Natasha! The decline of actual physical bookshops is a sad thing, isn't it? You're obviously using the benefits of e-reading to the full, though. I have to say, I never ever ever bother to get up and find a dictionary and look up a word when I'm reading, and that dictionary feature sounds brilliant. Like you, I can never bear to mark my books - highlighting must feel like a revolutionary act! I can't help thinking that if the researchers had included practised readers like you, Stefanie, Violet and Hayley in their study, they would have had quite different results.

Desperate reader

I meant to say tas well that the only thing I've failed to read on my phone is poetry - it wasn't at all an appropriate format for it, though it may well work better in a dedicated device. I'm far to attached to books as objects to ever want to give them up but even for me the convenience if a single device which allows you to speak to people, look things up, take pictures, and read books, and be kept in your pocket is to good to pass up sometimes. The more I think about it the more I doubt those surveys.


Hayley, yes I can't imagine that poetry is easy to read on a phone, and illustrated books probably wouldn't work too well either. I take your point about the convenience, but I do wonder if that might actually detract from the reading experience of some people at least. Like me! I know I am far too prone to flicking between my email and the internet and work when I am at the computer; that doesn't mean that I wouldn't be more focused were I reading a novel on a phone but I fear I would be just as distractable (although that's not necessarily true of anyone else, of course). Thus, if anything, I'd feed into that study's statistics very neatly.


I do love the idea of books being accessible all over Africa because of mobile phones. That sounds like a 100% undeniable, cheerably good thing! As for the screen issue, I certainly found that students whose essays were suffering from long-winded, syntax-troubled, ungrammatical sentences did a whole lot better when made to write essays by hand. I think it's a music and rhythm thing. As for reading, I've never read an e-books so I don't know, but I don't like reading on screens and often put off blog reading because I don't like the way it makes my eyes feel (and a million people will now tell me that a kindle is not backlit, etc).


I can't stop marvelling at it, litlove (I mean books becoming more accessible all over Africa), it is just so important and I hope as widespread as the people in the article were predicting. Fourteen years ago I lived in a university town in Nigeria and the scarcity of books, the impossibility for ordinary people to join the library, were deeply depressing and frustrating for so many people I knew. I'd hate to generalise about the state of booklessness in a continent from my one experience, but I do like to think of my friends and acquaintances happily reading much more. (Although since the unoffical name for Nepa, the national electrical company, was Never Expect Power Always, it will still be a struggle if they haven't improved their service about a billion per cent.)

I did read an author somewhere who claimed writing by hand or typing on a typewriter prevented novels from becoming bloated or prolix simply because it was such an effort to have to keep crossing out or starting again on a new page. I forget who it was now. Virgil? Heh. I'm with you regarding reading on-screen, in fact I can't work on a computer late in the evening without feeling horrible the next morning.

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