On January 2nd Mark Zuckerberg announced to the world – or at least to all Facebook members which is much the same thing these days – that he was starting a book club. In his invitation he said ‘Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today.’ Hardly a revelation to those of us who spend much of our lives with our head in one but at least it got the word out there. It followed on the heels of the Guardian’s report that young people prefer paper to ebooks, one of the reasons being that they like to share books with their friends. That’s one of my reasons, too, but I’d like to think they find the experience of removing themselves from the electronic world and diving into a good old-fashioned book to be an enjoyable one. Tired old cliché it may be but you really can lose yourself in a book and it’s better for your brain, too. Several years ago I read Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows which examines the neurological effects of the internet. When we wander around the web clicking on this and that, never quite finishing a page before heading off to something which might be more exciting we’re busy rewiring our brains. We crave more and more distraction – concentration becomes elusive. It all seemed horribly familiar at the time so I resolved to cut back my internet use, struggling to resist those insistent urges to check my email, and it worked. Elena at Books and Reviews wrote an excellent post on this recently. That’s why the news that sixteen to twenty-four-year-olds prefer old technology for reading is so cheering, although the sharing reason is the more heart-warming.
Something tells me that Mr Zuckerberg won’t be schlepping down to his local indie bookshop to indulge in a bit of old technology. As for me, I’m still wedded to paper and even more so since discovering the link between ebooks and insomnia, at least when read on iPads. Apparently, they emit light which interferes with melatonin production resulting in tossing, turning and tetchiness in the morning. There’s quite enough of that in this insomniac household already.