alice-ipad Slashdot called my attention to an editorial in the New York Times from last month, which I do not recall seeing mentioned here at the time. Verlyn Klinkenborg, an avid reader and e-book reader, remarks on the difference between printed and electronic books.

Though Ms. Klinkenborg has no eyestrain problems with reading e-books (including reading from glowing screens—she reads from her laptop and iPhone, and her iPad is on its way) she notes there is one thing in particular she prefers about printed books:

I love the typefaces and the bindings and the feel of well-made paper. But what I really love is their inertness. No matter how I shake “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” mushrooms don’t tumble out of the upper margin, unlike the “Alice” for the iPad. I never have the lingering sense that there is another window open behind page 133 of “the lives and times of archy and mehitabel.” I can tell the weather from these books only by the way their pages curl when it’s hot and humid.

In short, paper books help her to concentrate on the business of reading, whereas it is easy to get distracted by interactive e-books.

Of course, the vast majority of e-books are not interactive, and a number of e-book readers have a very nice minimalist interface to keep your attention on the text of the book.

But still, given that interactive e-books (such as the aforementioned “Alice” for iPad) are being largely pitched at children as an alternative to games, I find myself wondering whether it will make children less able or likely to want to read plain old words-and-nothing-else books and e-books. Hopefully not in my lifetime.


  1. When I began reading ebooks on my Sony device, it was a bit distracting only because of the novelty of reading ebooks. But after a while, it goes away and now I don’t even notice it when I’m immersed in a novel.

    Never read an interactive ebook like “Alice” though, but it sounds like it would be distracting.

  2. I have to say I haven’t read an interactive book. I think Ms. Klinkenborg has a good point. Interactive books seem much more like role playing games than reading.

    I would be looking for the gizmos and links rather than enjoying the ride of the story.

    That said, a good interactive book is still interesting, informative and provoking.

  3. Pop-up physical books are popular for children. So are interactive books on computers.

    As a former primary teacher I would say that we never started children reading with plain text books and no pictures.

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