Books Are Losing Out to the Internet


This electronic article, “Page by page, a good book can rewire your brain“, was posted at SFGate today by Mark Morford. Morford discusses the fall of book reading and how the Internet contributes to that fall.

I travel in book reading circles and activities, such as attending the L.A. Times Festival of Books. Reading may be declining, but there were thousands of people there that weekend. You wouldn’t have guessed that book reading was in trouble that weekend. It’s also rare that I don’t have two or three books going at a time (right now it’s four).

I see Morford’s point, though. There are times I have to put down my book and get on the computer just because. I may not being doing anything special (playing a game, catching up on my email, etc) or I may be working or writing this blog or adding a new review at my web site.

In the middle of the article Morford gives reading some hope:

“Ah, but I do believe all is not lost. There is lingering hope…

“I can personally attest. About a year ago the most astounding thing happened: The hard drive on my MacBook suffered a rare and painful meltdown when I was away on vacation. I was, much to my initial horror, to be e-mail/Net-free for over a week…

“Mercifully, the yoga kicked in and I quickly shrugged, sighed, noted the incredible opportunity, the gods trying to tell me to unplug. I hit the bookstore and bought three thick, sticky literary novels the way a misguided vegan buys some grass-fed steaks for the first time, and devoured them whole.

“As I did so, an amazing thing happened. Time slowed down. The brain quickly returned to its normal breathing. The mental seizures and the near-constant desire to click away and leap to something different faded and soon vanished. And books suddenly moved from the bottom of the intellectual priority list straight back to their original, top-tier state of grace.”

There’s hope.


  1. Comment by Kar:

    Several thought come to mind reading your post. First, why is it books OR computers? Why not books AND computers?

    Second, books – the paper, ink, etc – are simply a technology used to transmit a story. It is a long-lived technology, one I enjoy, but sooner or later, all technology is replaced with something else. We still have oral story tellers, but not so much. No hand-copied manuscripts.

    Third, in some ways, the easy access to the Internet has enhanced my reading. I looked up tons of artists and typographers while reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. Not necessary for the story, but having those images and information enriched the experience. I don’t do it as often with other books, but having the easy reference often comes in handy.

  2. Comment by Jandy:

    Yeah, Kar, for reminding me it’s not an either/or issue. It’s more of a balance issue.

  3. Comment by carolyn injoy:

    Finding your web page was a fantastic discovery for me. I’ve been searching for an Orson Scott Card Short Story about an obese man taken to a planet to be imprisoned & the ‘guard-gatekeeper’ (a skeletal man) was incredibly harsh to him & called him only by a letter name: I think it could have been “H” but too much time has passed. The gist of the story was after a year of abuse, this man wasted away & he became the ‘guard-gatekeeper’. The original guard left & he remained on the planet. The next ship arriving had a hugely obese man who was also called by a letter name. After he saw this newcomer, he realized that he’d had another opportunity with a healthy lean body & blown it by gluttony. Does this sound like something you remember? If so, please, please help me find this story again. I’ll return to glean through your titles to add to my own to be read list. Injoy:) Carolyn