E-readers Stop You All Being Lonely

According to the New York Times, at least.

Social mores surrounding the act of reading alone in public may be changing along with increased popularity. Suddenly, the lone, unapproachable reader at the corner table seems less alone. Given that some e-readers can display books while connecting online, there’s a chance the erstwhile bookworm is already plugged into a conversation somewhere, said Paul Levinson, professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University.

“I think, historically, there has been a stigma attached to the bookworm, and that actually came from the not-untrue notion that, if you were reading, you weren’t socializing with other people,” Dr. Levinson said. “But the e-reader changes that also because e-readers are intrinsically connected to bigger systems.” For many, e-readers are today’s must-have accessory, eroding old notions of what being bookish might have meant. “Buying literature has become cool again,” he said…

For many, e-readers are today’s must-have accessory, eroding old notions of what being bookish might have mean.

They even have a picture of a fashion model holding an iPad, so it must be true! Reading is now sexy! This shitty excuse for journalism makes me want to swear out loud.

And “social stigmas” related to reading in public? WTF? Because, I mean, no one thinks reading in public is a good thing, and people never actively lie about their reading habits in order to be seen as better people.

Ah no – the article has the authoritative chops to then state:

Not everyone agrees that e-readers have made the people reading them more approachable. In fact, the opposite may be true in some cases.

So reading ebooks may or may not make you more lonely or more sociable, we just don’t know. All we can conclude, then, is that it must have been a very slow news day at the New York Times.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

8 replies on “E-readers Stop You All Being Lonely”

Hm, I’m not sure that I agree that book readers themselves are doing that sort of thing. However, programs like GoodReads, Shelfari and do much of the same thing. I would say that if you’re connecting readers, it’s not the actual act of reading that’s becoming more interactive, but just the tools in which we use it.

However, reading in public isn’t really a stigmatized thing – not sure where they came up with that.

It does seem to make that massive disconnection between those sorts of networks and books, doesn’t it? I mean, just because you can’t click and read on the same screen with books, doesn’t mean the social aspect isn’t there. As we all know, being book types who hang out online!

The NYT is way off base on this one. I have a eReader and a new version on the way of the Kindle. I do not use it to make a statement or to have the latest technology. I do so out of convenience. You can take it practically anywhere without using up a lot of room in my bag or luggage.

If someone wants to talk to me while I am using it(usually to ask about the device itself) I stop what I am doing and engage them in conversation.

I am not out of the loop socially. If anything book readers are more in-tune with the world. The eReaders also have the ability to surf the web and most people I know in the blogging community are pretty hip to to things. We also talk to one another about a myriad of subjects not just books.

Sounds like the author of the article is out of touch with things.

Funny bit of spiffle. Only thing I can agree with is that the act of reading and the act of having a meaningful conversation cannot exist at the same spot in space and time (you either pay attention to the book, or you pay attention to a person). The rest is all wild tangents about how the e-reader will rehabilitate a supposedly ostracised group, whilst missing the point that people who read, usually want to read when they read (though they will usually stop reading when asked a question and engage in conversation), and will do their socialising when they do their socialising in whatever shape or format they desire.

@Mark – Indeed. I’m sure that it will change – multiple person, collaborative reading experiences? I’m sure that they’ll happen with ebooks at some point.

@Tyson – I think that they’re partially right – some people do buy the readers because they’re cool. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there is a lot of people who do buy out of convinience.

I have never thought of reading as a social occasional. Being connected to a bigger system would just be distracting and Police help the fool who tries to have a pop up conversation with me at the same time. Read the book, then talk about it in person or online. Maybe they’ll make that easier, the moment you finish the page you can be chatting about it. But I can’t see how someone reading in public will be more approachable because it’s a slim gadget in their hands rather than a book. I’ve never come across a stigma either, the amount of people that dug out books on my train commute to university every morning never raised any eyebrows, nor myself reading on a bench in the park. Well, unless it was raining and I’m huddled under an umbrella.

It’s an attempt to add another layer to a new technology, just like phone apps, and I hope it’s a sign that e-readers aren’t doing as well as people expected. I just can’t like them. Besides the problems – and some would say threats – e-books and readers pose to the industry, they are reliant on batteries (battery packs), dust on the motherboard can destroy them and there’s no texture.

This wasn’t meant to be a rant. Sigh….

Christopher – feel free to rant away! Yeah, I agree with much of that. The stigma was very strange to suggest. Ultimately, I think it will only go to enhance community – which is what the book industry is built upon. That can only be a good thing.

I know. I was just thinking about the costs. Sooner or later the public is going to cotton on that they are paying the same price for an e-book as they are for a hard copy (or there abouts) even through the e-book don’t have to be printed, there is no sourcing of paper, distribution, and overseas rights become an issue if people are buying and download from the country of origin. Then there’s the library issue. Though I don’t think they are available yet in libraries I’ve read it’s being considered. It will have an effect since at the moment at least there’s a chance people will go to a library and the book won’t be in stock. So they buy it – I get that’s a very black and white argument, but you get my point. With e-books there will never be a lack of copies, therefore less buying, less royalties, publishers cutting authors from their books that aren’t best sellers. I guess it’s still all up in the air, and this is worse case scenario, but it still worries me.
However, trying to see the pros of e-readers I did just have to cannibalise another chest of draws to make shelves, then find room for the shelves. There’s a moment when I’m exhausted, dusty and sweating that I can see the point of them…….. but only just.

I suppose the industry will evolve, a lot of new options will come from it and maybe they’ll over ride the cons. I’ll wait and see.
Oh! Maybe the short story will have a boom. That’s something I can get on board with.

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