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?


The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

  31. Maria says:

    I’m a college student too, but I’m a little outside the norm as I’m older than most of my contemporaries. I love love love to read, but I rarely have time during school. When I hit breaks, like Christmas and summer, I read like a starving man devours free hamburgers. On the very rare occasion I feel caught up enough with school work to read for pleasure during the school year.

    Sometimes though I just feel really stressed out and reading a romance is an escape. When that happens I either grab a really short category, or reread some of my favorite parts of the books in my personal library.

    I think our poll might be skewed by the fact that the people who frequent your site already love to read, and hence we aren’t getting a true sample of the college student population. (What? I took engineering statistics)

  32. R.J. says:

    Up until this upcoming semester, I read for pleasure more than I read for class.  However, now that I changed my major from developmental psych to history, I don’t have much time for pleasure reading.  This semester I have 2 lit classes, 3 history classes, and 1 ed class with a total of 23 required reading books.  I have no idea how i am going to get through this semester without my pleasure reading.  Maybe I just won’t sleep.
    One of my friends is a freshman engeneering student and she says that she reads more pleasure books now than she did in high school.  She also says that she gets more sleep than she did then, too.  Go figure.  If a college student wants to read, he or she will make the time to do so.

  33. Rhonda Marks says:

    As the mother of a recent college graduate (thank you God!), I can tell you that my son does very little fiction reading. For the most part, he’s glued to a computer screen playing some type of game. When he was younger, we could force him to read a book, and afterwards he’d tell us he enjoyed it.

  34. Charlotte says:

    I’m a second year undergrad student and despite a moderate class load with lots of required reading and an internship I read whenever I find the time – on public transport, in the the spaces between classes… during classes on occasion… Novels – they’re the best bad habit. <3
    For most of my school career novels have been my constant companions – I don’t think I could survive a semester without them. I’d probably go mental.
    Most of my friends are like this too, always reading something unrelated to classes from the fiction section. Compared to most of our peers we’re a bit unusual in this respect, though.

  35. Sonya says:

    I’m a sophomore in college, and everyone I know would read for pleasure if they could, that is to say, if they had the time. In between classes, homework, work, extracurriculars and some semblance of a social life, it’s difficult to squeeze in the time to read for pleasure. Because of this, I don’t read for pleasure much, but when I do, it has to be a book that is really worth it, because otherwise the stress of knowing that I should really be using this time to do something else for class prevents me from being engaged with the book for a long amount of time. I do get a lot of pleasure reading done at the gym though, though when classes are on I’m more in the mood for non-fiction (a lot of economics and such) than fiction. I read plenty during holidays though, I chew through at least a novel a night! Also, my roommates and I try to do a “bedtime story most nights”, taking turns reading out loud to each other – at the moment we’re reading Pride and Prejudice. Yes, it’s cute.

  36. jill says:

    three College kids in the house. Mine (girls) read as much fiction as they have time for, which during term might not be much. The boy (not mine) doesn’t read fiction. I’m a little surprised that it’s dropped so much – the current college students are the “Harry Potter” generation who read more in grade school through high school.

  37. sugarless says:

    As a college student I didn’t read for pleasure much. I’ve always been a huge reader, but I had two majors, both the most time consuming ones my school had to offer, and was involved in a billion things and I always had people in my room (not partying or anything, just hanging out – and my computer was where I watched youtube, movies and tv shows with people, so it was actually kind of a social thing. sitting on my bed reading seemed more anti-social) so I really just never had the chance to.

    I was always supposed to be doing something and, while I was a huge procrastinator, I could kid myself that I was going to switch over to my word document or whatever when I was procrastinating on the computer.

    Also – I didn’t have a whole lot of access to fun reading material. The town library was a pain in the ass to get to, the college library had little to nothing in the way of fun books, and I didn’t have my car at school, so I didn’t get to the bookstore often.

    I had a few periods of (probably, if I were to self diagnose it) mild depression, or something like it, and while there were other reasons I’m sure, I was always convinced that my lack of reading for pleasure played a huge role in those.

    When I got home for winter and summer breaks, I would devour books – probably going through a hundred or so per summer while working 30-40 hours a week.

    I do want to ask, though, how does one measure empathy levels – particularly well enough to extend those results to an entire generation? I’m pretty skeptical of surveys like these because I think any attempt to measure things like empathy is going to be bull.

  38. Ikkin says:

    Okay, so I read the article that was linked here and the Scientific Article that the original article was based on. Honestly? And hold on to your hats here folks…that article made a sweeping generalization based on one statistic of the study. The study itself only analyzes students while they’re in school and comparing it the amount of reading to other students in previous generations. It does not follow these same students ten years later to see if in fact, kids read more out of school than in. And no where in either article did it mention the variety of mitigating factors that affect students or in fact, my generation.

    I admit, as an avid reader and as someone who just graduated college in May 2010, that after reading so much material for school – sometimes reading books, novels, anything was unappealing because it was reading and my eyes were tired and I was burned out. I hated that. Also, as many of the college kids above have said, it was hard to find time with everything else going on. I also admit that I know more kids who play video games than read. But that being said, now that I and a lot of my friends are out of school, that has significantly changed because we aren’t burned out on reading, we have more time, etc.

    Additionally, its hard, I think, to compare generations of reading (from 80’s to 90’s to ‘00s) because of the leaps in technology and the greater emphasis on internet and computers, etc. Simply put, some activities or forms of entertainment available or popular now were not when my parents were in college so of course reading levels vary. My parents said so themselves.

    I do think kids read less and I do think its harder to get kids into reading and I do think its sad but that also has to do with the environment they’re raised in, the type of support and education they’ve gotten at various points in their development, etc.

    Also – fiction readers more empathic? Maybe, as a fiction lover, cool! …But it feels like a non sequitor because I would like to point out again that it really comes back to a person’s world view, what and how they were exposed to things, education, family, religion, politics, etc. It’d be great it we could pin reading or fiction as a source for empathy but I think there are a lot of different aspects to be considered.

    Sorry for the long rant, sorry if it seems like I’m off base here but I had to read the articles for myself and the interpretations didn’t sit right with me. Maybe if I could get my hands on the actual studies I’d think differently. The other reason this is so long… college has taught me to pick apart almost everything like this or at least look it with a critical eye…and I was only a folklore and ethnomusicology major.

  39. rebyj says:

    @beggar1015 I use http://www.netlibrary.com/ you put in your state and you can see if yours participates in the program. Also check http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/EBook_Lending_Libraries

  40. SB Sarah says:

    @beggar1015: You can also search Overdrive’s libraries to see if one is near you:


    Click the “Search for a Library” tab.

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