The Timelessness of Books

What resonated most with me in the first six chapters of The Shallows was the way Carr described the abilities of reading and writing books utilizing physical means versus utilizing technology. There were multiple passages in the text which coherently worked together to establish this point, beginning with the passage I marked on page 65,

“Even the earliest silent readers recognized the striking change in their consciousness that took place as they immersed themselves in the pages of a book. The medieval bishop Isaac of Syria described how, whenever he read to himself, “as in a dream, I enter a state when my sense and thoughts are concentrated. Then, when with prolonging of this silence the turmoil of memories is stilled in my heart, ceaseless waves of joy are sent me by inner thoughts, beyond expectation suddenly arising to delight my heart.”

The capacity of books to invoke certain emotions and spiritualities within ourselves is unachievable by technology, and was something I personally connected with most in my real life. I also understand this concept well because it connects to the way our thought processes change when using technology versus physical papers and writing utensils. The way the physicality of a book shapes our experience and bond, so does technology, but in a different way. Reading a physical novel or text slows down your senses and thoughts, while technology seems to speed them up. I’ve realized the ways technology has changed my thought process, especially after reading Carr’s research. He claims,

“…media aren’t just channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away at my capacity for concentration and contemplation. Whether I’m online or not, my mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.”

I definitely can recognize this change in my mind as well, as it becomes more difficult for me now to be calm, take time and focus on what I’m reading. I’m always searching for something in the text, something that could be a potential question later on. Rarely anymore do I read slowly, with intent, or when I do I must make an effort to.

In my personal life, I have a Pinterest board where I pin a lot of book quotes, pictures and ideas. I find this helps me keep in touch with my book nerd side, which is interesting because I’m constantly using my phone or laptop to go on Pinterest and find these things. I found this pin would be interesting to contribute to the conversation, because it sort of comments on the abilities of books versus the internet. As vast of a place that the internet is, it’s impossible to escape from reality. In fact, these days, the internet is our face of reality, constantly spitting new news and information at us. On the other hand, the media of a book has potential to release you away from reality and bring you into another world separate from your own. I’ve always been a book lover, and I do believe reading and writing heightens consciousness. I related to Carr’s theories regarding this and found it interesting and reassuring that a book is truly timeless.


Author: Ellie

I'm an aspiring novelist just trying to write.

5 thoughts on “The Timelessness of Books”

  1. I agree that books are timeless. I believe books have so much more meaning. You want to be handed a book, not a printed out article that was found online. Also, whenever I study, I learn so much more when I am holding a book or writing everything down on paper. I would think most people would agree.


    1. Yeah, I’ve had a few professors who were persistent about us taking notes by pencil and paper, because they read about some study which says we retain information better that way. I totally buy it. I also never take notes on my laptop, so it works out.


  2. I think you are spot on in saying that the capacity of books is unachievable by technology, because the two serve such different purposes. When reading a book, the reader only has to focus on what they are reading directly in the text while reading things on the internet tends to bring people to outside topics.


  3. Ellie, At the risk of being pedantic 🙂 . . . while I agree with you (and Carr) that the experience of reading a print text and reading online can often feel very different, I don’t think you can really say that it’s matter of “books vs. technology”—because books are a technology too. The reason I stress this is that I think it offers some grounds for hope. We’ve learned how to make effective use of the technology of print (although Carr is afraid we’re unlearning this), so maybe we can also learn how to make effective use of the internet? ~Joe


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