In his book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr attempts to describe the cumulative impact of the changes in technology on the human brain. He gives a brief history of writing, there were carvings in stone, papyrus, and animal skins. Scrolls, and later books, were steps in making books easier and cheaper to travel with and make. However, the writing was actually difficult to comprehend, being based on an oral tradition. The words were written without spaces and often out of order. Authors often had other people act as their scribes, writing things as they said them. It was easier to decipher these texts when reading them aloud. When the written word was modified, allowing for spaces between words and sentence structure, it became easier both for writers to write and readers to read. The act of writing and reading became more personal. Authors took on the task of writing themselves and felt more comfortable, as a result their works were better developed and more progressive than before. Readers were able to focus less on comprehending the text and more on experiencing it, building their own personal relationship with the text. Studies have shown that the activity in readers’ minds imitates what they read, so they are really experiencing what they read.
Carr has found that, with the introduction of the internet and the ability to just jump around from thing to thing, people have lost the ability to really immerse themselves in the text like they used to. They are no longer able to concentrate as long, they have been trained to skim texts. Even e-books are unable to recreate the experience. There are plans to take the e-book even further, adding links for readers to follow to articles and other things related to the text. Vooks are e-books with videos in them. These books have already begun being published and there are some that describe them as the next step for the novel. The ability to see a character, to access information that you aren’t sure about immediately. Carr thinks that this will only take away the personal aspect to both the writing and the reading process, where the writer in almost entirely influenced by outside interests and readers only read so they can say that they were involved.
I agree with Carr. I think that putting all of the extra things in books is only going to be a distraction for the reader. It will stunt both reader creativity and ability to focus. It may even stunt the writer, who will be forced to adapt to a new media. I honestly think that it would be too much, that no one would ever really finish a story or be able to build their own opinions.