Thursday, 3 October 2013

Ebooks and skip-reading

Said ebook opening.
(Is it just me or is there no way to have
the cover full screen in iBooks?)
The other day I was stuck somewhere with nothing much to do. I had finished the book I had with me, but I had my iPad about my person, so I fired it up and opened a book I had downloaded some while ago in Starbucks' nice little Apple collaboration where they have those weekly little cards that allow you to get a free book, tune, TV programme or app.

It proved sufficiently engrossing that I read about 1/3 of it on my train journey from Cardiff to Swindon. But it did make me wonder if ebooks and page turners were a dubious combination. The thing is, I tend to skip-read fiction at the best of times. I will slither my eyes across a descriptive passage, getting a general feel without bothering with the detailed words. I'm sure it's very sad for authors who have spent hours crafting that beautifully drawn setting, but I just want to get on to something happening.

What I found with this book was that I was doing it more than usual. I was getting through an iPad page in just a few seconds before flicking onto the next. In that time I was getting all the dialogue, all the essential plot details and a feel for the descriptive bits. It was quite addictive, flicking forward, soaring through it. It really did seem that the combination of relatively short pages and the ability to so easily flick on encouraged this naughty way of reading.

Now this wasn't great literature, it was a popularish title and an easy read. But my suspicion is that whatever I read on the iPad I will read less thoroughly than I would if it were a paper book. I haven't noticed it before as this was the most extreme example, but on thinking about it, I suspect it is true. And I don't know if I should be sad that the growth of ebooks means that more of us are likely to be reading books in this rather summary fashion more frequently.

On the other hand, it would mean I could read some of the more poseurish literary novels in about 10 minutes, as I would constantly be flicking and never hitting any substance. So perhaps it isn't so bad after all...

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