Random Links: Kindle, Lending, and Reading for Empathy

Book CoverA few random links, now that I’m firmly back in my ever-present chair-in-front-of-the-internet.

First, today, Amazon revealed digital lending on some of its titles. The terms are similar to those for nook books: 14 days, you can only lend once, and you can’t read the book while it’s out for borrow.

The ever-wise Paul Biba at Teleread notes that the process of selecting which books are eligible for borrowing purposes is rather cumbersome on the publisher end: they have to individually de-select the books they wish to be ineligible, which, judging from how much was available for lending when the nook debut, is passing few.

So let me ask you: if you had the ability, would you lend a digital book? Is 14 days enough, if the title is eligible? I wonder how many books have actually been borrowed digitally – and read in that 2-week time frame.

Sally sent me this link to a Time Magazine article about a study from Personality and Social Psychology Review that indicates college students have decreasing levels of empathy:

Turns out, modern students just don’t seem to care. The research shows that today’s college students are a shocking 75 percent less empathetic than the students of the ‘70s.
Why are the students of today less caring? Scientific American offers a few possibilities. One could be an increase in social isolation—compared to the ‘70s, Americans today are far more likely to live alone and less likely to join groups.

Sally found the follow section more interesting, however:

Another possibility is a decline in reading. Studies have shown that people who read fiction are typically more empathetic, yet the percentage of college students who read for pleasure is less than 50 percent—the lowest it’s been in ten years.

I have no idea how I would have made it through college without fiction reading – so the idea that college students don’t read for pleasure drops my jaw. But the possibility that fiction reading increases empathy doesn’t shock me at all. After all, we romance readers we feel things deeply, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).

Do you know a college student? Do they read a lot for pleasure or generally not so much?

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  1. 1
    Orli says:

    14 days would be enough for me—but I read really fast. It’s probably not long enough for many others.

    As for the lend only once—only once per person you lend it to? (one per e-mail or something?) or only once per book?

    All told it seems pretty lame. I have a new Kindle now so I think I’ll just lend family my old one if I want them to read something that I only have on the Kindle. (they’re sufficiently tech-slow that I can just “remove from device” all the literotica and they won’t find it)

  2. 2
    darlynne says:

    My sister and I both have Nooks now and I lent her my digital copy of J. R. Ward’s Covet. I liked that I could just send it to her and it magically arrived on her device. As with library books, the time limit means the book automatically moves to the top of the TBR pile, so you have to be prepared to read it NOW.

    What I don’t understand, however, is why a book can only be lent once. I don’t mind that I can’t read it simultaneously—we never could with physical books—but it’s silly and short-sighted of the publishers to add this restriction. So what if I lend it 100 times? People aren’t going to rush out and buy a book because I tell them to, but, as with samples, lending always has the potential of leading to future sales. Why is this so obvious to me/us and not the publishers?

  3. 3
    Rebeca says:

    My sister is in college and she’s definitely the type who reads for pleasure, if she has any time at all. In general, they keep her too busy with assigned reading (most of it non-fiction). When she comes home on break I really have to make my suggestions count.

  4. 4
    Anony Miss says:

    I love my Kindle (had it about 6 weeks now), so I’m thrilled about lending finally going live. I just need to find a Kindle buddy now with interests like mine (although I’ve still only bought one book for it – the rest have been free).

    That said, I actually just DIDN’T buy a Kindle book (the important “Hush”) because I feel it will be something I will want to lend again and again. But of course, I didn’t want to pay full price either, so I bought neither. And that is sad.

  5. 5
    Courtney says:

    I probably would not use the lending option, only because my nearest and dearest don’t have e-readers. My only friend that has one has a Nook while I have a Kindle so unlikely. Having said that, we have a 14 day limit at our library and it’s rarely enough time for me.

    I certainly did read for pleasure in college and law school. However, I did not read as much then as I did before and after—possibly because I was doing so much reading for my classes. Both being an English major and a law student requires alot of reading:-)

  6. 6
    Erica says:

    I haven’t been in my profession long enough to discuss changing trend, but several college students come to our reference desk every year to ask for books they can read for pleasure.

  7. 7
    Jessimuhka says:

    I read a ton for pleasure now and did in high school, but hardly any in college.  The political science and philosophy degree I was working on pretty much sucked up all my reading time.  It felt wasteful to read anything fun when I was always getting behind on hundreds of pages of reading for class.  Six years out of college, my love of non-fiction is finally coming back from the dead.

  8. 8
    Heather in FL says:

    Personally, I think 14 days would be good for me, but hopefully I know the book is coming, so I’m not in the middle of something else (i.e. lender and lendee have discussed the lending).

    As to people not reading anymore, I honestly think ereaders will have an impact on that some day. College kids may not have time for non-college related reading (or would rather spend them time on other social activities). Before I started reading again a little over a year ago, I hadn’t picked up a book for PLEASURE for probably 20 years? At least? It just wasn’t important for me to find escape in a book. Not that I didn’t find escape other ways, but reading just wasn’t something I did. Now I’m constantly reading, and wonder how much I missed over the years by not reading. And I’m reading so much more now that I can do it electronically and not have to carry a huge book around with me. Or have to go to the bookstore to get a new one. It can be 2AM and I can find/buy/start a new book if I need to.

  9. 9
    joanne says:

    While reading a book this week I wondered who I would pawn it off on – um, lend it to- if it wasn’t on my kindle. Darlynne it could have been yours!

    I just wanted someone to IMMEDIATELY show some sympathy for the fact that I was persevering with it or else just come over and shoot me. I wanted to share without anyone paying for the privilege.
    (it has 4 & 5 star reviews on Amazon)
    (maybe I have a decreasing level of empathy for bland writing?)

    Hopefully there will always be those who read fiction for pleasure but the time taken by texting and games and innumerable apps on all the devices, and texting about all the apps and games is probably eating into reading time.

  10. 10
    Scrin says:

    I know someone who doesn’t read fiction because “Why should I bother with it if it’s not real”

    A: Just because it’s not real doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

  11. 11
    LSUReader says:

    The handful of college students I know well do not read for pleasure, mostly due to time constraints.

    Re Kindle lending: I think 14 days is plenty of time, but I don’t agree with the “can only lend once” rule.  That’s too rigid.

  12. 12
    Colleen says:

    I am a college student and I love to read for pleasure! Despite working, school, and a very active social life, I have plenty of time for reading. Even when I was pledging for my sorority, I had time to waste between classes and waiting for buses.
    I know other people who read constantly, too, on campus.
    I think 14 days is totally fine and is more than reasonable to finish a book, but not being able to lend it out again and not being able to read it at the same time is stupid. I could understand only allowing the book to be lent out one at a time (otherwise there would be a some very inexpensive, tech savvy book clubs!), but to never lend it out again is stupid, as is it not being able to be accessed from the orignal e-reader.
    Question- can an e-reader and a PC reader (like the Kindle and Kindle for PC) simultaneously share a book that can be read?

  13. 13
    jikie says:

    Lurker and college student here. I can’t say I’m surpised that college students are reading less [I know most of my guy friends would prefer to play video games than read] but I’m sure that reading and empathy are related. If you read, you usually read because you care about the characters/topic.
    I think that college students are less empathetic mostly because of social isolation, but also because of the economy. We hear stories of people who get their Masters and PhDs who can’t get jobs these days and we wonder after we get our BAs how in the world are we going to get jobs to pay off college loans if those with higher education can’t get jobs.
    There seems to be an attitude that ‘we want to care, but we gotta look after ourselves first.’ My generation’s very ‘me’ orientated.

    Back to lurkerdom. :]

  14. 14
    HelenMac says:

    I haven’t been a college student since 2005, but when I was, and especially during the gruelling year that was my MA, I read fction (predominatly Romance) even more voraciously than ever before: it was my way of escaping from how stressful life was.

  15. 15
    meganhwa says:

    i have just finished 7.5 years of uni (4 yrs undergrad, 3.5 years post grad) and throughout that time i continued to read for pleasure though it was often hampered by the whole having to study thing :) Well to be honest I would not allow myself to read books til the holidays becuase I’m the type of reader who once started, won’t arise from my book til finished. even if that means ignoring others around me, reading on public transport, walking around in public with nose in book and staying up to 4am in the morning just to finish book.

    also the 14 day loaning would be fine for me as my local library has 3 week loans and i often read all four or five books i’ve borrowed within the first week and then leave them sitting on my desk til the end of the third week cos i’m too lazy or busy to return them.

  16. 16
    triplets5 says:

    Well, I am new to ereaders.  I just got my first Kindle DX and have discovered that one of best friends got a Kindle for Christmas also.  So . . . , I would be interested in the borrowing and lending privileges. 

    I have three children in college-hence triplets5.  All are wonderfully smart (as any mother would atest!).  One is a theatre major, one a philosophy major, and one an english major.  The theatre and english majors are avid readers for pleasure.  The english major has a huge interest in graphic novels and comics.  The theatre major is always looking for new “audition” material.  The philosophy major only reads for his major but has been reading throughout break-he doesn’t like fiction however. 

    I think if children are readers growing up they will continue to be readers throughout life.  But I do think that iphones and other smart phones have certainly diminished the necessity or pleasure of reading for fun-to much instant gratification!

  17. 17
    Kim says:

    I teach high school (science, not English), and it seems like very few kids read for pleasure.  My daughter (now in college) seems to have inherited my bookworm gene, so she usually has her nose stuck in a book.  My two sons, on the other hand, rarely read for pleasure.  Kids these days have so many other diversions (computers, internet, electronic games) that reading gets the short end of the stick.
    I wonder at the relationship between the decline (as I see it) in kids reading for pleasure and the increase in standardized testing.  Kids get beat over the head with reading dry, formulaic, boring passages, and it takes all the joy out of reading.  Plus they’re reading short passages, not full texts, so they don’t see the development of the plot – they’re just looking for the answers to the test questions.
    Sorry, I could go on for days about this.

  18. 18

    I know two college students well, my daughter and daughter-in-law. One is in her 2nd year of law school after taking 4 years off to work and the other is in her 3rd year as a History major. Both are avid fiction readers. However, neither reads anything for pleasure during their semesters of study. They stay so busy with homework, Christian Crusades, study groups, football/basketball games and life in general. They prefer to save their reading for pleasure until they have a week or more off. They use this as a way of rewarding themselves for working hard and getting good grades.
    I think 14 days is plenty of time but don’t agrees to the one time lending. That is exactly why I will buy no books for my Kindle. I use it only for reading the free books offered and the books I review on Net Galley. One of the things I enjoy most about reading is being able to share a good book with a friend. Half of the enjoyment in reading a good book is discussing it with others who have enjoyed it so for that reason I love to share my books.

  19. 19
    S says:

    on the lending- while I don’t have a kindle, I read e-books all the time on my laptop, specifically because multiple libraries across the country allow borrowing of e-books and audio books online if you have a library account with them. 2 weeks is more than enough time for me with a book and having them on my laptop is more convenient than paper books when I need my computer anyway. I also LOVE being able to borrow audio books and download them to my ipod for my long commute to work. given that I still prefer paper books, I likely would not purchase e-books whether or not i could borrow them, but its nice that libraries now accommodate that niche.

  20. 20
    Janene says:

    As a semi-recent college/university grad, I can say that I rarely read for pleasure while I was in class. It was mostly because I was reading approx. 250 pages of non-fiction per paper required, and my spare time was spent just trying to keep ahead on that front (note: I worked full-time while getting my Masters part-time, AND I had a bf at the time). With trying to keep up with friends, the work, and the bf, I barely had any free time for pleasure reading. I was lucky to get through a book a month.

    That being said, I tried to read while on vacation—Christmas, Reading Week, etc, and the two months of the year that I wasn’t in class (I was trying to blow through my 2 year masters degree in 3 years part-time, which I did).

    I missed reading. I think the first month after I finished my Masters, I read a good 10 books.

  21. 21
    Lindsey says:

    I suppose I could say I know a college student (as much as one can know oneself). I know that I read a great deal for pleasure (obviously, as I frequent sites such as this one). Yes, there are time constraints (I have a job, and I have to take a full load every term to keep my scholarship), but I can always find time and make for reading. And hot damn, I read a lot.

    However, from what I’ve noticed, I am most certainly not the norm; most college students don’t read for pleasure anymore. Some would like to but say they just don’t have the time, while others profess to dislike reading, but most seem to not even consider reading as an option. Most of the ones I know listen to music, watch television, movies, or play video games, but I can count on one hand the number of students I know who choose to read for pleasure (and as I’m about to graduate, and live and work in a residence hall, I’ve seen more than my fair share of students).

  22. 22
    beggar1015 says:

    Here’s where I think the problem is (as in regards to reading for pleasure being down): when I’m at work and on break, I’ll try to cram in a few pages of reading. For some reason this sends out the signal to my co-workers that now is a good time to strike up a conversation, when I’m trying to read. Anyway, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Oh, I hate to read. I hardly ever finish a book.” This always disturbs me because these people are also parents. If they “hate to read” then you know their kids are going to grow up hating to read and see it as nothing but a chore, something they have to do for school. My mother and grandmother were avid readers and I can picture them now, quietly sitting on the couch, enjoying a book. I think pleasure in reading is passed on from generation to generation. If you see your parents reading a book, you’re going to want to emulate them. But the parents of today’s college kids probably were the first to have cable and video games and so much other stuff to distract them and so there’s been a breakdown in reading habits. I have no scientific data to back any of this, this is just my all-important opinion. :-)

  23. 23
    beggar1015 says:

    multiple libraries across the country allow borrowing of e-books and audio books online if you have a library account with them

    Which libraries are these? I’d certainly be interested in borrowing ebooks from libraries. I live in a teeny tiny town and many times what book I’ve wanted to read I’ve had to request from another library. Getting an ebook online would be so much simpler and faster.

  24. 24
    Katie says:

    I’m very skeptical of the idea that social isolation has lead to decreased empathy—that simply has not been my experience, being an extremely socially isolated person whose friends are online friends and fairly isolated themselves. Most of the people I know are extremely empathetic. (Though I do realize that anecdotal evidence doesn’t really prove anything)

    Of course, all the people I know are also avid readers. :)

  25. 25
    Smash Attack says:

    I’m currently getting my Master’s degree and I have NO idea how I would get through it all without my books! I definitely think people who lead a less social life are less likely to care about others, and unfortunately, we are becoming more digital every day. :/

  26. 26
    S says:

    I’ve borrowed e-books both from the Omaha public library and more frequently the Denver public library. (lived in one, went to college in the other) the trick of course is that you have to have a library card from the library in question, which usually requires going in person and proof of address to get. once you have that card though, even if you move, you’re still active in their system, so you can log in online, usually with your card number and last name, and download any number of things.

    the Denver library is particularly good, they keep current with new releases in e-book and audio book formats, constantly adding new things. they also allow you to check out up to 20 books at a time (I’ve never wanted more than that) and they keep it honest by the book deactivating itself at the end of your check out time.  they do also have limited “copies” of books just like if you went in person, so you may still be on a hold list for some time for a particular new release.

    I know the Houston public library also offers some e-books though I haven’t used theirs so I don’t know personally how it works. check with your local (or closest big city) library and see what they have. Many of the big cities accept a valid address as anywhere in the state.

    also a possibility without requiring a card, are baen free books (free science fiction and fantasy from select authors) and project Gutenberg which posts just about anything out of copyright.

  27. 27
    kimsmith says:

    I have to wonder how they worded the question in the survey.  My husband doesn’t read books much any more, but he spends hours a day online reading fanfiction stories, many of which are novel length.  (He does so because he can adjust the print—the e-reader screens have not imrpessed him with their print sizing options and dim screens.)

    I suspect college students spend a great deal of time reading for pleasure, just not neccessarily the American Booksellers Association definition of books.  Would a website count in that survey?  There are numerous blogs I enjoy on a daily or weekly basis.

    However, this kind of connectivity is very different from human to human contact.  We say things through the anonimity of the internet or present a view of ourselves which may not be what a contact woud see if they met us in person.  In that sense, I think the next generation spends as much time living in their imagination than the real world.  It’s socialization, of a sort, but not as it is in the “real” world.

    Not that my generation is much different.  I grew up on three or four hours of television a day, as well as keeping my head buried in books.  The connected generation is at least interacting with other people, in sort of a grand Choose Your Own Adventure kind of way (which sums up my opinion of life on the web, really).

  28. 28
    freshechelle says:

    When I was in college, I wished I could have read for pleasure.  Between a full time course load, driving to school and work daily over 100 miles, working 1-2 jobs and pursuing a major the required copious amounts of reading (fun times in medieval history!), I only read for pleasure between semesters.  Those were tough times.

  29. 29
    Theresa I says:

    I love to read and have always read a ton of fiction.  However, when I was in college, I just didn’t have time to read, except for required reading for classes.  In high school, I had extracurriculars and spent a lot of time on academics, graduating near the top of my class.  Yet I always had time to read for fun.

    But in college, the only time I had to read was on breaks and on the cross country flight before and after breaks.  I just always had more work to do or would go out with friends if I had free time.

  30. 30
    joy says:

    1.  I have done a lot of nook lending and borrowing. Library loans as well.  2 weeks is enough for popular fiction, for me, as long as I limit the number of things borrowed at the same time.  (I can read 3 romances a day but other works demand a slower pace).  I think it might not be long enough for some of the books up for loan at Books for Nooks, one of which is the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and certainly it might be a tight deadline for a slow reader without a lot of spare time.

    2.  I didn’t read much for pleasure in college when class was in session. I was a lit major and didn’t have time to do extra reading. I did read for pleasure on vacation.  My nieces now are college students and one of them reads a lot for pleasure, the others occasionally.  They are top students for what it’s worth.

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