Archive for October, 2010

The explosion of Internet usage and the rise of electronic devices such as the Kindle and iPad fundamentally alter some, but not all, types of reading. As a matter of fact, the way in which we increasingly interact with electronic information isn’t “reading,” at all. It’s a different mode altogether, and we should treat it as such.

Many commentators on this subject, such as Kevin Kelly and Nicholas Carr, do not sufficiently distinguish between different types of reading, and thus misstate to either extreme the effect these electronic devices have on an act that has and will continue to define how we think about ourselves and our world. As I noted in my last Blog post, we can differentiate by a person’s intention three types of reading: Extractive, Pedagogic, and Immersive (credit Evan Schnittman at Bloomsbury Publishing for this). The interactive multimedia encouraged by most electronic devices transforms the way people acquire information for reference and research (Extractive reading) and how they learn many skills and building-block concepts (Pedagogic reading). Think Lexis-Nexis, Wikipedia, and online training courses.

However, the third style of reading, Immersive (as in cognitive and/or narrative reading), will resist such transformation because its goals, benefits and nature are completely at odds with electronic interaction. As we continue to embrace screen-based information devices, we will ultimately read “Immersively” less than we have, but it’s not going away, precisely because it complements, whether for pleasure or purpose, the other ways in which we gain and create information.