It is a paradox of the digital age in which we live that the more we are connected, the less we are connected.
Minimalism is the art of knowing how much is just enough. Digital minimalism applies this idea to our personal technology. It’s the key to living a focused life in an increasingly noisy world.
Cal Newport has written a book entitled “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World”
Here are some of his ideas of how we can focus in this noisy social media world:
– Spend time alone to gain solitude
– Leave your phone at home
– Take long walks
– Write letters to yourself (journaling)
– Don’t click “likes”
– Avoid falling into the slot machine feedback loop of likes
– Consolidate texting
– hold conversation office hours
– Reclaiming conversations
– Reclaim Leisure
– prioritize demanding leisure activity over pass consumption
– use skills to produce valuable things in the physical world
– seek leisure activities with real world, structured social interactions
– fix, or build something every week
– schedule low quality leisure
– join something (e.g. a community)
– follow leisure plan
– Join the attention resistance
– delete social media from your phone
– turn your devices into single-purpose computers
– embrace slow media
– dumb down your smart phone (before it dumbs down you!)
It is almost three years since I read my first e-book “As I Died Laughing” by David Lloyd, I had a new phone and I’d downloaded the Kindle app. This e-book was free, I got it because a Facebook friend had written it and it wasn’t possible to get a physical printed copy here in Tbilisi. The next few e-books I got were all free. In November of last year, I splashed out on my first e-book, buying Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, again I got this as an e-book because I was unable to find the printed copy and I wanted to study this novel with one of my English students (I teach English as a Foreign Language). My Kindle shelf on Goodreads now has 17 titles.
I still prefer printed books to e-books but both media have their advantages and disadvantages.
Price : E- books are usually cheaper and if you order online, you don’t need to add the cost of postage. Many e-books are free, including some of the classics. I don’t like paying a lot for an e-book because you don’t get a physical object you can feel and put on the shelf.
Accessibility: E-books need a reader or smartphone app, the device needs to be charged. Printed books just need light and the ability to read to access their contents, you never need worry about having to charge them! Most e-readers have a backlight so they can be read in the dark.
I have a choice of highlighting in 4 colours, if I got organised, I’d use the different colours for different kinds of content…quotes, humour, mistakes etc… A highlighter can be used with a printed book but it requires finding a marker and the effect is permanent. If I own the book, I might underline passages in pencil and turn down the corners of a page to find the marked passages but I’m often reading on the metro or bus and don’t have a pencil to hand.
Portability: I can carry hundreds of e-books without additional weight. The Kindle app is on my phone so it is almost always to hand. I find it useful to have reference books like Harari with me, to refer to whenever and wherever I want. It would be impossible to carry around so many printed books. Some of the printed books I am currently reading like “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke weighs in at 1006 pages or “Our Mutual Friend” by Charles Dickens is 801 pages, these are just too cumbersome to carry around.
Selection: In a bookstore, we can see the entire selection as we enter. We can browse easily, we can flip through the pages of a book which interests us. With E-books, we can scroll through various books, we can also download a sample of the book but we don’t get the same impression of the scope of the book. The last e-book, I bought was disappointing. I was looking for some books on diecast car collecting, my hobby and subject of its own blog; I found Diecast Car Collecting 101, the sample looked interesting so I sent away my $8, the entire e-book was disappointing, it was very American-centric, featuring brands I rarely come across (Johnny Lightning and Greenlight) and omitting many of the European brands I like to collect (Majorette, Siku, Bburago etc). The illustrations were also disappointing, had I been able to flick through a physical copy, I would have understood these limitations and left it on the shelf.
Aesthetics: a printed book has more appeal than an e-book. Printed books make attractive presents. Printed books appeal to our sense of touch and also our sense of smell, the whiff of a book triggers childhood memories. The fonts in printed books differ from one book to another, but with e-books, whether I’m reading a novel or memoir or how-to book, the sameness of the font scrubs away one of the unique and defining features of print books. E-books promote sameness with their incredibly limited font selection. This is hugely ironic given the ease with which so many other computer applications use different fonts.
Setting an example: If we want our kids or grandkids to read, reading a printed book in their presence provides a positive example. If we are reading an e-book, they may think we are just checking our newsfeed, playing candy crush or doing one of the other umpteen things we do on our smartphones. Reading a printed book, it is obvious what we are doing.
Distractions: Reading on a smartphone, you are open to distractions, people may phone or send a message, the temptation to check Facebook or the weather may be too great, reading a printed book takes you down to a deeper level of concentration. Some books can be so good you might be oblivious to the world around you, there have been a few times I have missed my metro stop as I was engrossed in a good book, this hasn’t happened whilst reading an e-book.
Environment: e-books are more environmentally friendly, they save trees. There are no transport issues moving an e-book from the provider to the customer. There is an environmental cost in creating the device but if it is a phone, the addition of a kindle app will have a negligible impact on the environment.
Sharing: in this age of social media, e-books can’t be shared. They are held on the user’s device. If I finish a printed book, I can pass it on to a friend who might like it.
There are advantages and disadvantages of both media. Whilst I appreciate some of the convenience of Digital books, they just don’t deliver the same sort of visual and tactile satisfaction I get from reading physical books. If I can have the physical printed book, I would choose it over having the e-book. E-books seem more of a fad, already sales have stalled, whilst printed books continue to sell as they have for centuries…
What are your thoughts, which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments.