Day: November 5, 2011

Video games are the new Saturday morning cartoons

When I was ten I would hop out of bed on Saturday mornings and race to go watch cartoons with my siblings. My parents slept late and we scrounged our own cereal for breakfast. These days I’m the one sleeping late, but my kids are turning on video games instead of cartoons. Usually it is a multi-player game like Kirby Air Ride. They laugh and play together for hours. It makes me happy that while the specifics of their Saturday mornings are different, the shape is an echo of something which gave me happiness in my own childhood.

Kindle Update: Why I Still Buy Paper Books

I have had a Kindle since January. My husband has had an iPad for about the same length of time. Having an e-reading device has revitalized his love for reading. He buys books and reads them often. The only reason he will buy paper any more is if he is at the book signing of a friend and wants to show support. He’ll bring home the paper book and then buy an e-version for reading. We buy all the books on one account, so when he buys an e-book I can also read it. It is kind of nice to not have to negotiate over first turn. I really liked reading the Hugo voter samples on my Kindle. However we’ve noticed some troubles.

Howard bought the latest Pratchett book and began to read it. I then downloaded it to my Kindle, which helpfully assumed that I’d want to start in the same place where Howard had been reading. I began reading on chapter three without realizing I was doing it. Another problem also manifested with this particular book. Pratchett loves to do footnotes. I love to read his footnotes. On an iPad you tap, read the footnote, tap, and are back to your place. On the Kindle I have to push up-up-up-up-up-up-up-up-up-up-up-up-up-up-over-over-over–over-over-over-over-over-select to get to the footnote. Then I push back to return to reading. It is a significant disruption to the flow of reading. Between these two frustrations, I am currently reading some paper books I got from the library instead of reading the new Pratchett book. I’ll eventually read it on Howard’s iPad, but am waiting until there is a period of time when I can have unfettered access to the device. Or perhaps I’ll just buy the book on paper.

I still find reading on an electronic device to be a touch distracting. It takes awhile for my brain to settle into the story because I associate electronic devices with internet and work. When I am stressed and need to disengage, I pick paper over electronic unless there happens to be a book that Howard bought electronically that I really want to read. Most of my reading is still on paper.

I know it is possible to borrow e-books from my local library. I don’t want to learn how. I want to read, not learn a new electronic-based skill. I certainly do not want to have to troubleshoot a loaning system. Electronic devices invariably have snags, errors, crashes, and annoyances. All of these can be recovered from, but all of them can steal my small space of relaxation and kill my good mood. About the only frustration a paper book can supply is being lost.

I regularly loan books to a long-time out-of-work neighbor. He has no money for cable television or to buy an expensive e-reader. Getting to the public library costs him money either in gas or bus fees, but he can come raid my library easily. If all my books were electronic he would be out of luck.

We are still buying kids books on paper only. I do so for the following reasons:

I can hand a child a $7 paper back and not have to police the treatment of the book. Books end up in bathrooms, spattered with snack food, left on floors, buried under piles of clothing, stepped on, shelved, stacked, and read. I could not do the same with a device costing over $100. I would have to keep track of it and spend time training my kids to treat it correctly. This is not just a kid problem either. I constantly have to remind myself not to leave my Kindle laying where it could get knocked off, stepped on, or other wise smashed. That little bit of extra required attention can be wearisome when I’m stressed or tired.

I have four kids. I want them all to be reading, sometimes simultaneously. I don’t want to spend $400-$700 to get enough reading devices for everyone to read at the same time. Additionally we have a house policy that a child can have an electronic device when they care enough to buy it with their own money. This way they have an emotional stake in taking care of the device. If my kids save up $150, they’ll buy an iPod or a 3DS, not an e-reader. They regularly spend $3-$15 buying books for themselves.

One of the best ways to get kids to choose reading is to have books laying around where the covers can catch their interest. Many moments of boredom have resulted in hours of reading because book was laying nearby. This does not happen if all the books are neatly filed on my Kindle.

Physically taking my kids to the library addresses reading in a new way. The kids are able to speak with a librarian and really think about what they are looking for in a book. Then sometimes their favorite books are ones that happen to be shelved near the one that the librarian was showing them. Involving a librarian in the book selection process means a new perspective and opens up new possibilities for the kids.

Owning a physical book and shelving it with their possessions is one of the ways my kids begin to form their identity. Different kids will latch on to different books or series of books. Then they loan them to each other. There is power in being the one who loans or recommends a book. If all the books are organized in the same electronic library my kids will not feel the same sense of ownership.

My children spend a lot of time playing computer and video games. Sitting down with a paper book gives their brains a break from the flicker of screens. It encourages them to switch over into a relaxed way of thinking. I’ve had them read things on my Kindle or Howard’s iPad, they read for shorter lengths of time because the presence of the electronic device is a constant reminder that there are video games in the world and that those video games might be more fun than reading.

When my Kindle was new, I had three children taking turns with it reading the same book. The process for bookmarking and unbookmarking was button-press intensive. As a result, they only book marked, never unmarking. This meant that we always spent at least a minute, sometimes as much as five, trying to figure out which of the bookmarks belonged to the child whose turn it was to read.

In summary: Paper books are still useful to me in ways that e-books have not yet managed to replicate.