eBooks and the Perils of a Nanoattention SpanJuly 7, 2007
Even with paper books, I’ve noticed that my reading sessions have become shorter, and demands outside the book’s bubble of reality intrude more easily than ever. In digital form, the intrusions are always there. Email and the riot of open app windows behind the reader clamor for attention. More insidiously, references in the book text occasionally demand a quick detour online for more information, triggering another cascade of link-following into the ether. While these tangential excursions might result in productive or creative associations, they certainly don’t create the contemplative mood that the reading deserves.
Fortunately, the reader software does offer some help. Acrobat Reader’s full-screen mode is like the visual equivalent of a quiet room where I can find some measure of stillness, away from the self-imposed cacophony. It blacks out all of the other windows and interface elements, providing a pure and focused view on the book page (see below). Digital Editions, the new Adobe ebook reader favored by , offers a similar (though slightly noisier) experience.
Invoking these options is quite a relief. While they don’t wholly stop my jumpy flitting to and fro, they do help me put my focus where it belongs — on Susan Sontag’s intense insights into the realm of the photographic.
Are you encountering these same kinds of attention-span issues in your reading (whether ebook or paper)? How do you maintain your focus…?