Posted by: listonjoe | December 4, 2014

The Value of Physical Books


As a consequence of living a digital life, there have been many times that I wish I was able to magically do a Control/Command F (find) to locate a particular section or term in a physical book. As if it would spring open to that page, and highlight the term I sought.

As seductive that particular idea is, Google’s plan for Book Search would allow that to happen in the virtual world.

When I had heard about this effort a few years ago, I instantly thought it was a fantastic idea. Being able to digitally search books would make knowledge acquisition so easy. I hadn’t put much thought into it beyond that. 

But, after reading this weeks assignment in Carr’s ‘The Shallows,’ I firmly believe that doing so would further erode our mental ability to “decode” and “deep read” material. I think Carr’s right, and I read with fascination in the prior chapter about how reading online versus print affects not only understanding but re-trains our brains. Based on my personal experience, I believe it to be true. 

Even if Google does digitize every book, I can’t imagine that physical books will go away. As consumers we have choice, and I hope we will continue to have the choice to pick up a physical copy when we want. Books are often my refuge not only from the glare of the screen, but from the distractions that erode my comprehension.


  1. Joe, great post. I am not sure if digitized books is what is making people less analytical. I am not completely sold on Carr’s book though the research is undeniable. I came across this Journal article that paints a picture I agree with:

    It basically states that the fact the text is now digitized and more frequently read off a screen, it will never replace the physical book, which is your point. Also the conclusion is where the strength of the paper lies. The author, Barry Cull, thinks that digitized text doesn’t make people more or less diagnostic, but the amount of time reading, processing and analyzing information read is what does the trick. I can get behind this, but I have to also agree with Carr in that because it is so easy to find the information we need and ignore the rest, we aren’t pushing ourselves to spend the time to make out attention span longer.

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