Reading on the screen

Just about every English teacher I know is passionate about books and reading. Loves it. Is good at it.
They (we) love books. The smell, the feel, the texture, the excitement of a new book. And, if I had $1 for every one I’d heard say something like “I couldn’t possibly read a book on the screen”, then I could buy an ipad.
So, it was funny the other day teaching Jane Austen to my Lit class and talking about some important passages that were revealing about Austen’s views and values to look up and see one of the girls looking at her computer, not the dog-eared Penguin Classic everyone else had open.
When I asked her why she wasn’t looking at the passage we were discussing,she said she was, but that she preferred to read it on the screen, where she could annotate it direct and make notes on the discussion somewhere else than in the margin. It wasn’t so much as an ‘aha’ moment, as a ‘oh yeah’ moment. I did give them the text version of Emma from Project Gutenberg and had encouraged them to use it to find quotes or to pull apart key passages. But, I hadn’t thought that some students actually PREFER to read this way. That it’s not all about the book for everyone any more (if it ever was)
And I find myself reading more and more on the screen now. Not just online newspapers and the reports from the Giro cycling race in Italy. But substantive articles, even books. I read The Call of the Wild for the first time ever on the plane going to the USA, on my ipod application called Classics, which had 24 other classics I could have chosen. Or, from another app called Classics2Go which has 60 classics from Wuthering Heights to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Or, I could have opened up Grimm’s fairy tales or the Shakespeare app I paid a couple of dollars for which contains ALL of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. A lot more choice than I could fit in my take-on luggage.
So, if my reading behaviour is changing, little wonder that our students are going to have less qualms and want more opportunities to be doing their reading in a new format. The stories remain the same.
Below and above: screen shots from my ipod-touch and the apps I’ve talked about above.

Cross-posted at English Teaching it IT (with more screenshots)