May 28, 2015

Uhhh.... I Forgot

My daughter called me on her way to work this morning to tell me about a story she'd heard on NPR. It had to do with a study recently conducted on the difference between reading a book on a mobile device (specifically a Kindle) versus reading a print book.

According to the study, some readers retained less information when reading on the Kindle than other readers did when reading a print copy of the same story. Researchers indicated that the tactile experience (feeling the stack of pages growing smaller on one side of the book and larger on the other) might contribute to the ability to better retain information when reading a print book.

Now, I didn't hear the NPR story myself, and I don't know my way around the NPR website well enough to figure out if there's a podcast of the story available to those of us who missed it, but a Google search did turn up this article that I read and found interesting.

Let me preface my thoughts by saying that I'm really a print book fan. I love the feel of books and love the way they look on a shelf. In my opinion, a home without bookshelves is ... well missing something important.

But I'm also quite fond of my Kindle. When it comes to moving 3,000 books from one location to another, for example, the e-reader beats the print book hands down. I also like the fact that on my Kindle I can adjust the font to suit my mood and level of eye strain. On the other hand, I prefer the feel of a real book in my hands and nothing can beat the smell of a library or book store (unless the smell is ruined by stale coffee).

But even though I appreciate my Kindle, I sincerely hope that print books never completely disappear from our human experience. But even though this study would seem to support my love of the print book, I did have some doubts about the veracity of the study I read about.

My biggest doubt arises because there's no indication in the article that all the human readers involved were equal. That makes me wonder whether the results are really proof that retention is skewed by reading an ebook or if retention is skewed by having a memory like a sieve.

No matter what device someone handed me, I would find myself challenged if asked to recall certain events from most stories/books I've read unless I was pre-warned that I would be tested later. So without warning that would make me pay more attention than I might otherwise, I would probably test poorly on recall of plot points and character names.

I know people who can talk about a novel they read years ago and mention the characters by name. I'm not one of those people. Unless the book is off-the-charts amazing, I'm not likely to remember character names ten minutes after I put the book down (and sometimes not even then.) It wouldn't matter which type of book the researchers handed me, I would bring my faulty memory with me. Someone would be wrong to assume that my inability to remember the order of story events was the fault of the device I used to read the book.

And even if everyone who participated in the study had brilliant memories, some stories resonate with certain readers and not with others. I'm much more likely to recall details from a story that touches me on some deeply personal level than I am from one that I don't personally connect with. There again, the medium I use to read the story matters much less than my likes and dislikes, my personality, and my past experiences.

I guess what it boils down to is that even though I still prefer a print book, I'm not ready to point an accusing finger at the much-maligned e-reader on the basis of the study I read about. What about you?

photo credit: DSC02792 via photopin (license)

May 05, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Probably Won't Read

Quite a while ago, I bookmarked a blog called The Broke and the Bookish as one I wanted to follow. Then life got in the way and deadlines loomed, and I never made it back to check out the blog ... until this morning. I discovered a feature on the blog called Top Ten Tuesday, which is a different top ten list every Tuesday. This morning, I decided to play along. Today's theme:

Ten Books I'll Probably Never Read

1. Let's start at the top of the list -- Fifty Shades of Gray. Just not something that interests me. I'm not a fan of erotic books (or movies), so the only reason for me to try one of these books would be to jump on the bandwagon so I could be one of the crowd. Since I've never been a "hop on the bandwagon just for the sake of being on the bandwagon with the rest of the world" kind of person, I'm pretty sure I won't be picking this one up. We'll just go ahead and add any other books in the series here, too.  

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Nothing against the author. Don't know anything about his style of writing. This decision is based solely on the fact that someone mentioned that the book contains a particularly brutal rape scene. As a rape survivor, I tend to avoid books, TV shows, and movies that deal with the subject matter -- with the exception of Law and Order: SVU which, for some reason, I watched for many seasons before I inexplicably stopped watching. 

3. Anything in the Outlander series. I don't know why. My romance writing friends think I'm twisted beyond belief. This series is almost required reading ... and still, I'm giving it a pass.

4. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Aber J Jenkin (as my daughter used to call him) is one of my favorite presidents in history.  This just seems wrong to me. 

5. Any dragon book by Anne McCaffrey. I read one for a book club I once belonged to. I can't remember the title now, but it wasn't my cup of tea at all. 

6. Anything by J.R.R. Tolkien. You might be getting an impression that I'm not a real fan of the fantasy genre, and you would be right. That's not to say I don't ever give any fantasy books a try, but I dip my toes in those waters only occasionally and after a lot of thought. In spite of (or maybe because of) all the hype about The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books and movies, and after living in a neighborhood where all the street names came out of the books, I have yet to read a book or see any of the movies. 

7. Any fiction by Stephen King. While his book On Writing is one of my favorite books on the subject and I'd grab another one like it without blinking an eye if he ever wrote it, I'm not a fan of horror. Love mystery. Love suspense. Can take most psychological thrillers (although I'm thoroughly bored by serial killer books. Far too many of them out there.) But horror, not so much 

8. The Divergent series. My oldest daughter has read the books and warns me that I won't like them. My kids know me better than anyone else on the planet, so I'll take her word for it. 

9. Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. There was a lot of talk about this book a while back, so I remember looking at it and giving it some consideration. Finally decided that the characters sounded a bit weird for my taste. They might have been wonderful. I might have loved it but a person can't read everything. Some decisions just have to be made. 

10. The Hunger Games series. Again, lots of hype. There's just something off-putting to me about the idea of children who are forced to kill one another. I'm sure the series is about so much more than just that, but I can't get past it to give the books or the movies a try. 

What about you? Are there any books on your "Will Not Read" list?