MultiGrain Forum: eBooks and Memory

by | Jul 25, 2011 | 1 comment

by Tony Horava, University of Ottawa,

I’ve been thinking alot lately about ebooks and memory, esp as we have entered the era of mobile devices in a major way. Memory and reading are intricately bound together. What we read and how we read affects the development of memory – all of us have powerful memories of reading books and the impact on our imagination. Now that we are fully into the digital era, how will the switch from reading books in print to reading online affect the memories of reading we develop? It is clear that memory has a strong impact on identity – who we think we are is closely associated with our personal vault of memory. How will the transition to reading books online, whether via an ebook reader, a tablet, or another device, affect our relationship with the text and what it means to us?

What do you think? Will ebooks play an important role in how the reading experience is captured into memory, and how these memories shape our ideas, emotions, and attitudes about the world? Memory is a complex psychological and neurological business, and I don’t pretend to be an expert here. However I do know that this strongly affects our self-concept and identity as well as our knowledge of the past and understanding of the present. Will screen reading of books be committed to memory in new ways, and how will the medium determine the quality and quantity of what we retain? I’ve written a piece on this topic in the June issue of ATG (

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