Home Tech Reading In The Digital Age: A Spotlight On Reading And Writing In The 21st Century

Reading In The Digital Age: A Spotlight On Reading And Writing In The 21st Century

In some ways, the love of reading has transcended time and technology. Your well-thumbed, yellowing copy of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility will evoke almost the same joy and feeling as a digital copy of the 2018 bestseller, ‘Where the crawdads sing’ by Delia Owens. Yet, many in the academic, literary and publishing world agree that the digital age has changed the way we read, and in turn, the way writers are writing.

When we read on a screen, we usually skim rather than read, while still processing and retaining information. This has led to shorter attention spans. Novelists, celebrity autobiographers and even academics and non-fiction writers are urged to produce well-paced, snappy writing rather than long-winded pieces. 

Reading on an e-reader has become more interactive, with readers able to pull up dictionary definitions or cross-check a reference quickly while reading. In that sense, reading an e-book rather than a traditional paperback can invite us to explore multiple worlds of knowledge, all on one device.  It also forces us to employ new learning strategies. If you switch on the highlight sharing function on your e-reader, you will be able to see how many other readers have been moved by the same words. Despite all its critics, the digital world has transformed reading into a shared experience rather than an individual one.

Literary academics worry that e-books will take away from the immersive nature of reading. After all, how can you truly lose yourself in the written word when you are distracted by pulling up definitions or a Wikipedia page? This concern is valid. However, in the information age, our minds are much more capable of focusing on several things and grasping disparate information. And it isn’t just the e-reader that can be blamed for the fragmented nature of reading. Reading today is already competing with so many distractions: live news feeds, social media, the ability to stream a range of entertainment.

The fact that there are still writers writing for eager readers is very affirming. It is proof of how powerful reading can be, even in a world where everything is vying for our attention. Whether you prefer reading from paper or on your kindle or e-reader, there’s one thing all readers can agree on: How we read and write may have changed, but a love for reading isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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