For thousands of years, long before Gutenberg invented the printing press, access to written sources like scrolls, historical recordings, or books in order to get information was considered a luxury. Books were copied by hand in a painstaking process before most were lost to wars, natural disasters, or neglect. However, Gutenberg’s revolutionary invention in the 15th century revolutionized the way books are reproduced and, along with it, people’s reading habits changed.
Today, in the 21st century, we are experiencing another such revolution, thanks to digital technology. Like the printing press did, technological blessings like the internet, smartboards, tablets and e-readers are once more reshaping our reading and learning habits entirely.
One of the key things that have changed as a direct consequence of the advancing technology is our way of obtaining new information. The age of searching through dusty library shelves for books to find one piece of information is long gone. Now, one can access hundreds of resources on almost any subject with just a click of a button and by using search engines. Compared to searching through physical books and library archives which might have limited resources, using a search engine to find specific information is much more practical and efficient. Therefore, the time you would need just to find resources in a library could actually be enough to find, examine and critically analyze the same information.
Technology has even changed the way we use libraries. For instance, instead of searching the shelves one by one, you can simply reserve the book you want online, before picking it up in person. This, in turn, saves a lot of time. Some modern libraries even provide their members with opportunities to borrow e-books and gain online access to their database. However, libraries that refuse to adapt to the advancing technology face the risk of becoming obsolete.
Meanwhile, technology is also changing and in some cases eliminating traditional classroom activities. Smartboards that are much more practical and allow the use of virtual materials are increasingly replacing blackboards. Other technological devices like projectors, computers, and 3D printers are also being used. Moreover, thanks to programs such as Blackboard, distance learning has become very popular. Many acclaimed universities around the world now offer online undergraduate and Master’s programs online.
For many students, using physical books, pens and paper are a thing of the past. Instead of carrying books and notebooks with them every day, students carry tablets that can hold hundreds of books and allow them to take notes at the same time. They may also benefit from instructive videos during the course, and even sit down for exams online. The textbooks used in class are decked with virtual and audible materials, which can help them follow the lecture and enhance their learning experience. In addition, students now can always stay connected with their teachers, it becomes easier for them to ask and receive help with homework or projects.
Apart from education, free reading activities are also being affected by technology. According to a Pew Research Center report, the number of e-reader users in the U.S. has grown from 17 percent in 2011 to 28 percent in 2016. With e-books being popular throughout the world, various e-book reading services have emerged. Among them Oyster, Scribd, and Entitle, three of the most popular services, offer their users unique experiences. All three provide subscription based services and allow access to more than 100,000 books. Oyster and Scribd only allow their subscribers to read e-books, while Entitle allows downloads and offline use.
When it comes to recommendations, Entitle categorizes its books in a more traditional way but Oyster and Scribd feature unusual categories like, “Bad Role Models” and “Cliffhangers.” While Oyster is an iOS-devices-only service, Scribd and Entitle are available on both iOS and Android.
Though e-readers have a wide user base, many people still prefer printed books, mostly for reading activities such as reading a book with your child at the bedtime.
The rise of digital technologies has affected many other spheres of our lives. With the rise of smartphones and high-capacity mobile storage devices, our photography habits have changed. With the emergence of online music streaming services, Spotify has replaced much-beloved desktop applications like Winamp and high-speed broadband has seen off the humble MP3 player.
A similar change has hit our reading habits in general. We don’t have to own a physical book to access content anymore. There is a myriad of different ways to read books, articles and any other kind of written material. We also have many screens that allow us to interact with content, from eye-friendly e-book readers to shiny tablets and smartphones. Interestingly, however, printed book sales are also still strong in terms of sales and there has been little to no significant drop in the market for hard copies. So to say, even though change is in the air for booklovers, the extent of this transformation remains firmly under the readers’ control.