Do e-books foster a love for reading?
Dr M S Sridhar
The digital environment in general and the Internet inparticular have substantially influenced the readingprocess. Readers in the digital era tend to exhibit aliteracy,promiscuity, lack of repeat use, and of course, a decline invisit to libraries.
Alitracy refers to the tendency of a person who can readbut is not interested in reading or is disinclined to deriveinformation from literary sources. Promiscuity is thetendency of bouncing or flicking from one source toanother with some alacrity and only occasionally returning to a source. As a manifestation of amultitude of choices and a rich digital visibility, promiscuous readers (more so with younger ones) exhibit volatility and visit too many sites/ sources, do not remember them nor intend tocome
back to them. Another aspect of the ‘bouncing’ behaviour is shallow searching with low
site penetration and not viewing more than a few beginning pages (i.e., not reading completely).Despite visiting a number of sites/ sources, they are less bothered about content attributes.Repeat use behaviour is a quality-indicator and refers to brand loyalty or site-sickness.Obviously only a small proportion of high users of digital sources are repeat users. With themassive and increasing choice presented in the digital environment, relying on libraries is morefor material with the stamp of quality or authority. Further, users prefer to search on a trial anderror mode in a non-library digital environment relying on search engines and own experience.With these changes in the digital reading process, it is difficult to answer the question whether e-books foster a love for reading or not, without specifying the type of e-book and the easyavailability of the desired book in e-form.
Depending on the information contained, the properties and functions, there are several types of e-books. The features represented by each type of e-book together with an e-book reader (thegadget) and their advantages need to be contrasted with print books to answer the question.However the initial curiosity and attraction due to the novelty factor certainly help bring thepotential user and his e-book together provided one can afford to buy or hire an e-book of hischoice together with the gadget.With software enabling online transcription and synchronising of graphical view on the Braillescreen, e-books and audio books can virtually and cost-efficiently replace Braille books. Withmore than 10,000 Open Access (free) e-journals on the Internet, browsing and downloading of journal articles have substantially increased. The average number of articles read has doubledover the last 2-3 decades but the average time spent reading an article has been reduced from45-50 minutes to 30 minutes, thereby indicating that users are not thoroughly reading what theydownload and instead spend more time searching/ browsing.
Though text books are the first to become e-books, early evidence about the value of academic