Has Digital Reading Failed Us?

“iBook Reading on iPad” by Dana Fusek

Has Technology Failed Readers

As technology has grown over the years, we have learned to read differently. While people formerly read by print, readers are now opting for technological reading devices like Kindles, iBooks etc. Even further, instead of reading words by print- readers have adapted to listening to books on tape and enhancing their experience by ear.

The biggest question is: by transforming to these digital formats, are we losing an ability to connect deeply with the context?

The term “Deep Work” refers to fully concentrating on a subject for a long period of time without technological distraction. Author of Deep Work, Cal Newport argues that,

“these efforts created new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

(Newport et al., 2016)

But where does this fall in the context of reading? Are people less connected to the text because they are distracted by devices? Many people now read articles on their phones, so are readers automatically distracted from the articles by the “ping” of a new incoming text message or social media notification?

In Michael Harris’ article “I have forgotten how to read”, Harris makes the argument,

“when we become cynical readers- when we read in the disjointed, goal-oriented way that online life encourages- we stop exercising our attention. We stop reading with a sense of faith that some larger purpose may be served.”

(Harris et al., 2018)

How Can We Support Technology

Instead of steering away from technology and a new form of reading digitally, is there a way society can grow to deepen our connection with the text? It seems that researchers are finding ways to adapt to the growing digital age.

Take for instance a study conducted by Lotta Larson. In this study the researcher observed a class of sixth grade students to test perceptions of e-books vs. audiobooks. The study found that by using a combined method of digitally reading plus the use of audio books largely supported the students’ reading experiences as well as developing their vocabulary. (Larson et al., 2015 )

This study was supportive in growing use of technology to enhance the experience of reading digitally (and promoting audio learning.) Perhaps there is a way print readers can grow to accept digital reading without falling victim to the other unnecessary distractions that technology provides.


Harris, M. (2018, February 9). I have forgotten how to read. Retrieved May 22, 2020, from The Globe and Mail website: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/

Larson, L. C. (2015). E-Books and Audiobooks. The Reading Teacher69(2), 169–177. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1371

Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work (1st ed., p. 7). New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s