Monday, September 6, 2010

Project Gutenberg

OK, so I started reading about Project Gutenberg for this class (and I started with Wikipedia, which is basically where I always start these days) and it made me all happy all over on the inside.

I suspect that the vast majority of people reading this are Honors students (and hopefully the occasional educator will come by, since I've begun to comment on those types of blogs) and so I suspect many of you understand this great growing joy. Like, seriously, look at this graph. More happiness on the inside. Also, in general I like graphs.

Something I've thought about a lot, especially as information becomes increasingly digitized, is studies I've read on how most people retain information better when it's not on a screen. (However, I have not been able to find references for that comment, so if you have any references on that topic, I'd appreciate it.) I wonder, however, if I assume that my premise is correct, why this might be. I guess the question that I'm really concerned with, is this a case merely of students who haven't learned to study by computer screen yet, or is it actually a biological retainment mechanism that works better with paper-based materials rather than computer texts?

I suspect that this varies somewhat depending on the material and depending on the learner's preferred learning style. But if any of you have thoughts on this, I'd appreciate hearing them :)

Coming back to Project Gutenberg... well, if I don't get into graduate school for next year, I guess you know what I'll be doing with my time. (hint: reading all these free books. Marvelous!)


  1. All your happiness on the inside is motivating me to check out Project Gutenberg; reading all those free books does indeed sound marvelous.

    As far as retaining information better when it's not on a screen, I have a few thoughts, though they are not backed by any scientific sources. First of all, reading a book requires physical action; you can touch the book and turn the pages. By engaging more of your senses rather than just sight, you are getting more information, and I don't think there's as much physical interaction with reading on a screen. Second, there's something about staring at a computer screen for a long time that makes my eyes/head hurt sometimes. What causes this effect, I'm not entirely sure (it could just be information overload/too much studying), but it probably has something to do with the light being emitted from the screen, which obviously doesn't happen with a book, and could affect information retention in some way. And, of course, people just aren't as used to studying on a computer as with a book.

    So that's what I came up with as possible factors affecting retention; take 'em or leave 'em. :)

  2. Ariel,
    I suspect the reasons you mentioned are probably true. I hope that somewhere out there, engineers and other inventor types are working on developing screens which aren't as harmful to our vision. And I hadn't thought of the extra interaction with the book - more senses involved and stuff. That's interesting. I wonder how that's affected by a touch screen? I read a book on my brother's Ipod Touch for the first time a few weeks ago and the touch screen to turn pages was quite distracting but perhaps if I became accustomed to it that would no longer be the case. Thanks!

  3. I see your point with the fact of computer screens being somewhat detrimental to our vision. I work almost full time doing web programming, and sometimes when I come home I just want to close my eyes forever! Not even sleep, just rest my eyes!

    There is hope in sight! The Amazon Kindle is one of the newer forms of digital media, and its screen is especially designed to act like a normal page. You can read it in any shade of light and it works great!

    I am not an Honors student, and when reading your post I was curious about these warm fuzzy feelings you had. I read about Project Gutenberg, but I guess you have something I don't....expound?

  4. @Brad: expounding on warm fuzzy feelings...

    I am a project-oriented person, and I love to read. Libraries make me incredibly happy, and I always have a mental booklist which I am slowly working on. Sometimes, however, libraries can be frustrating because they don't have a book, or someone else has it and I have to wait for it, or it's due and I haven't had proper time to read it. With online books, due dates seem to disappear, and they don't clutter up my apartment. When they are free, they are even within my student budget. So having access to a great many free books without the hassle of due dates or clutter or finding them in my messy room makes me very happy. I hope this helps my warm happiness make sense :)