Guest / Limited Access /

The fact is that people don't read anymore." Or so Steve Jobs said, in 2008, two years before the introduction of the iPad. Such pronouncements abound nowadays—often appearing in … books. But the most thoughtful reflection on the subject comes without any apocalyptic huffing and puffing. In The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (Oxford University Press), Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Wheaton College, is sanguine about the future of reading and the book, and positively seductive when he urges us to read "for the plain old delight and interest of it, not because we can justify its place on the mental spreadsheet or accounting ledger." Books & Culture editor John Wilson talked with Jacobs about the distractions that beckon us, the virtues of the Kindle (and, by extension, similar devices), and the rewards of reading with concentrated attention.

In the journal Historically Speaking, historian Timothy Snyder laments how Internet access distracts students in the classroom. Does this track with your own experience as a professor?

I decided some years ago that I was not going to allow laptops in the classroom. And the main reason was actually not because of the distractions involved, though they are multiple. I will walk sometimes down the halls of Wheaton and I'll look into a classroom, and I'll see a student sitting in the back of the room clearly doing Facebook or playing Solitaire or involved in some sort of game while the teacher is talking, and I know that that person has only minimal attention. So I'm aware of that as a problem, and I don't want my students to have that problem.

But I actually banned laptops for a different reason. There's a technology that we call the book, and many of us tend ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedThe Hidden Purpose of the Hobbit's Adventure
The Hidden Purpose of the Hobbit's Adventure
Gandalf promises Bilbo Baggins a "profitable" quest, but the wizard has a different sort of treasure in mind.
TrendingPope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
Pope Francis Learns What Rick Warren, Russell Moore, N. T. Wright Think about Marriage
(UPDATED) Warren turns Vatican conference into 'revivalist meeting,' while Moore explains why marriage crosses theological boundaries.
Editor's PickWhat Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?
What Forgotten Christmas Tradition Should Churches Revive?
Rooting our celebration of Christ’s birth more deeply in our lives.
Comments
%%var.bookTitle%%
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction
Oxford University Press
2011-05-26
176 pp., $15.11
Buy %%var.bookTitle%% from Amazon
Christianity Today
Don't Worry, Read Happy: Alan Jacobs on The Pleasures of Reading
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.