Earlier this week we looked at Maria Harris’ three questions of what may be living, dying, or rising in educational ministry. I’m working on a project now where I need to write an apologetic for reading books in the digital age and am wondering if the reading of printed books is something that may be dying. Will it go the way of cursive writing in this ever increasing proliferation of electronic devices? Is there something inherently different in the way our brains work when we pick up a book with paper and ink and when we pick up a tablet or sit in front of a screen to read?
Nicholas Carr, in his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains would say, “yes.” Citing many different studies and disciplines, Carr makes his case that reading is both tactile and visual, that when we read a print book we are engaging in deep, undistracted, contemplative attention to the argument or narrative in front of us that allows for creativity, problem solving, and empathy among other things to emerge. He indicates that reading on the “Net,” is really an exercise in “flitting” from hyperlink to hyperlink, spurred on by the immediate reward that the web offers in easy information, quick replies, and likes. Our very brains rewire to accommodate the tools we use, just as they did to learn the alphabet symbols for reading in the first place.
I wonder how our Bible reading changes when we move from print to electronic forms of scripture. I wonder about the choices we make in books we read in print form vs. electronic form. I wonder if we were to make a case for our children, youth, and young adults for reading print resources what we might say.
If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, here are a few recent studies:
Kathy Dawson, Associate Professor of Christian Education, Columbia Theological Seminary