I’ve been thinking about writing about Nicholas Carr’s intriguing new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains for some time, especially after reading David Brooks’ excellent column referencing the book, which nicely summed up my opinion, too, of the book and what it says about the future of human intelligence. But, as described in the book about virtually every other connected citizen of the universe, I’ve been too easily distracted in recent days from the usual Internet distractions–e-mail, blogs, Facebook.
In defense of myself, I will say that I’ve had very few largish chunks of time recently for sustained writing or doing things that might take more of my intellectual energy. And I will say even when I have had a little time, it’s far easier to check in quickly with friends or plan ahead on my calendar. But I will say that I have made time for plenty of offline reading, as I infinitely prefer real physical books to anything online.
As I mentioned when I interviewed author Mary Eberstadt, I first read some of The Loser Letters at National Review online, where some were first published, but I found it much more satisfying to read as the physical book, both because of the story line, but also because I wouldn’t be distracted as I am when online to click around.
I personally have resisted getting an e-reader like a Kindle or Nook, and after reading The Shallows, I think I will stick with my resolution for now. I do have the free Kindle App on my iPhone, but I find it only useful for reading aloud (either to someone else or for someone, usually one of my children, to read to the rest of the family).
In May, blogger Melissa Wiley started an interesting discussion about Carr’s book (which prompted me to become the first at our library to reserve the book!), and asked the question, “Have you noticed a difference in your powers of concentration or memory?”
David Brooks’ column, though, hits another important point, which is how the Internet’s vast information does not help one have literacy about judging the worth of the information:
Thoughts? Do you prefer a real book or reading online? I wonder if there is a generational difference here? Share your thoughts (and your approximate generation, if you like!