E-Books and E-Literacy

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

Printed hardcover books haven't quite gone the way of the illuminated manuscript, but their era of dominance is over. Amazon.com announced this week that digitized books for its Kindle reader are outselling hardbound books. The speed with which this milestone was achieved - Amazon introduced the Kindle less than three years ago - is a clear indication of the trajectory of written communication. The screen, not the page, will be the primary medium for written communication.

Reading an e-book is different than holding a book in one's hands. The difference transcends the technical limitations of the devices sold by Amazon and others - such problems as awkward controls and poor contrast already are being overcome.

The deeper difference is that words on a screen tend to be skimmed rather than read. The transitory nature of words and images on a screen works against the sustained concentration that reading a book requires.

That drawback is offset by the many advantage of e-books. An electronic version of a book can have whole libraries of definitions, explanations, illustrations, documents and commentaries available with a click. Conversations with other readers, or the author, can occur simultaneously with the act of reading. …