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How Much Do You Read Online? #reading

By 30/10/2018reading

Reading online has grown in leaps and bounds over the past years.

I get most of my news online. I read articles my writer friends post on social media. I read book reviews online, and also recipes. I read travel stories, columns, how-to-write-better-articles, even workshop class notes online.

This takes away from time reading fiction–I do read that too, both for pleasure, and well, because that’s my trade. (For the purposes of this post, I’m excluding e-books from reading online: when I’m on my e-reader, I’m offline. But that maybe different for others.)

I find online reading quite convenient: my phone is always with me, and I learn so much about the world, from genocide accounts in Rwanda to deforestation in India to book publications on topics as varied as astronomy and gardening. I also read fiction online, on the Forge Literary magazine which I help edit, and also many other magazines online.

The downside is, I sometimes justify spending time on social media: it makes me think I’m learning and growing.

That is only partially true, though. Some of the best minds on the planet are right now bent towards turning us into online addicts. So I’m wary of the online life as well.

What about you? How much time do you spend online, doing what? How has that changed your life from that of your parents, for example? How much of your reading is online, and does that affect your offline reading? Does it matter? What would you wish online reading were like?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • bibliogyan says:

    I definitely read more online now than before. I barely look at newspapers because everything is available online. I read more ebooks than ever before yet I prefer a physical book to an ebook so other than reading, blogging and posting pics on insta I don’t spend that much time reading online.

  • robertcday says:

    Interesting questions.
    What about you?
    I read as I walk. Paper-books in the summer, e-books in the winter (it’s dark) and audio-books when it rains (too wet for paper). I go online at work. Mostly work-related stuff. The time I spend online at home is split between movies (Amazon Prime) and studying (an MA in Creative Writing with the OU). I have a phone that I listen to BBC One Xtra on and catch up with my blog, email etc. I also make extensive notes on what I read using Google Keep and Docs. And in-between (means, in the gaps between) these things – I live my life.
    How much time do you spend online, doing what?
    All day and most of the evening. Oh gosh, that’s too much. Eek. Most of it is work (I’m a Software Developer by day). The next bid tranche is study. And the rest is information exchange and entertainment.
    How has that changed your life from that of your parents, for example?
    My parents? They were young before the internet were invented. So it’s changed a lot. I remember my mom reading (more so now) when I was a kid, but not much. My dad just worked – period.
    How much of your reading is online, and does that affect your offline reading?
    Most of my reading is offline. If you saw the boxes of books in the attic (and on the shelves and in the drawers and in bags under my desk and scattered across every surface) you would freak!! I prefer reading paper and so that keeps me off the net.
    Does it matter?
    Does what matter? Reading paper as compared to online? Yes. There’s something about the physicality of books I like. The way you can put your finger on a place, when you’re distracted and, it still be there when you look back at the page. If you try that on a smartphone you’ll find that you’ve skipped to another place by the time you look down again.
    What would you wish online reading were like?
    Hmm. Interesting. Probably some experience that takes more advantage of computing tech. Like, it visualises the text for me. Shows me the images. But then again – what would my brain do? Isn’t that my mind’s job? Or maybe brain implants could trigger off the emotions that the author intended as I read. I don’t think we’re there yet. Tech is still trying to catch up with the paper experience. It’ll be a while before it catches up and goes ahead. Looking forward to it, though.
    Thanks for provoking me, Damyanti.

  • If I can get it, I read on paper. No matter what kind of reading it is, I prefer paper.

  • OwnShadow says:

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say that bloggers are part of a community. It is wonderful to have all this global connectivity, but if all you know about someone is what they put in writing, then you cannot say you know them. Communities are made up of people who know each other by – preferrably – having grown up together. Where people can literally touch each other, only then can they behave as one. Blogging should never be seen as an alternative to this. But your enthusiasm for the medium is nevertheless infectious!

  • cmwriter says:

    I read news, etc. online but prefer reading novels in hard copy.

  • Indira says:

    Nice article, Damyanti, Dear.
    Happy Diwali.One can’t be online always. There is so much to do other than that. But whenever I get time I love reading blogs, humorous and witty, inspiring and motivational writing. But since child hood happiness was me having a good book with tea and snacks, without disturbance . That changed after more responsibilities came my way. Now being able to do something for me and others.and loving it happiness for me.

  • I know what you mean in that you can spend too much time online and justify that because you are learning/growing. I’ve only recently discovered the joys of Pocket and oh my goodness! It’s a rabbit hole of sorts. But I also find so many articles fascinating. And then of course, there are all the blogs and news websites.

  • G. J. Jolly says:

    I spend too much time online reading blogs of writing friends when I should be diving into the books I have on the subject of writing, physical books no less. I’m not much into the social media sites, finding them rather boring for the most part.

  • writershilpa says:

    I am online only for my blog and blog-hopping. I would rather read books offline than online. Holding a book to read feels a lot more enjoyable than reading an e-book. And, as much as I love the online world, I am making conscious efforts to maintain safe distance lest I get sucked into it and lose my peace of mind! 🙂 Not that everything here is disturbing, but I like the kind of peace my parents enjoy, far away from the madding (virtual) crowd !

  • simonfalk28 says:

    The short answer is, not enough! Although a lot of my work is on screen, so, with ereaders, like Kindles, that are not backlit, I am finding more helpful. Like you I get most news from the websites, or from the news twitter handles.

  • Honestly, I read (and do) too much online, Damyanti. I mean, I seldom read (what I consider) mindless garbage about celebrities and such, but I am a news junkie and I enjoy reading about hobbies, too, and I tend to get carried away doing so. I would love to re-evaluate my life and (re-)focus on what’s important to me.
    However, on a good note (I would say), I’ve made a concerted effort to become a long-form reader again. I’ve got a library card in place and have taken advantage of it. I check out quite a few books, but don’t always finish them. Nonetheless, I’m happy to say I read about 3 books in October (I know, pathetic to some who might read this; but it was an accomplishment for me). If I were to count the amount I read online, I can’t imagine what it would be; possibly a 200-page novel every 4-6 days, I’m guessing.

  • Anindya says:

    I only read other blogs online. For books and other reading I am generally offline. The other time I spent online is searching and listening to music. I do a lot of searching into new artists and bands for the music I love to hear. So I am active both online and offline.

  • Shalzmojo says:

    I am not much of an online and for that matter even an offline reader as I love the feel of holding the paper/book in my hand when I read.

  • Mark Murata says:

    I get most of my news online. But if you find that it shortens your attention span, do yourself a favor: Find a good book, fiction or non-fiction, and read it for a solid hour with no phone, no internet, no online anything.

  • Priya says:

    Yup, I spend a lot of time online. More than I would like to acknowledge 😉
    I do justify that I’m reading and writing and researching for the next big project. Definitely need to cut down.

  • pjlazos says:

    The only problem is — my eyes get so tired of reading online!

  • This is such a pertinent question that is incessantly haunting all of us, and where is the balance, the elusive one of how much we should be reading online and how much time we should be giving for the offline stuff. The hard books, that matters and there is so much to pick going through those fiction to non-fiction books, the long stories. Online is quick, online has so much we feel happening now and we are updated. It is there on a click and it is the convenience and it is such a big canvas where we can pick and choose at ease and align with our changing moods and needs. Online has become an integral part of our existence, the question how much we need to imbibe, there is no escape to the ground reality of life offline and the reality exists outside the intangible glitter of the online world. Thanks for the thought provoking question…

  • Parul Thakur says:

    The new iOS started tracking the screen time. I was initially very excited with the data it showed. But when I deep dive into what am I really reading, I see that it is a lot of social media time. Twitter for news or FB for the usual fun stuff and IG for pictures. Now that upsets me. I am trying to bring it down and I will. But I do feel that too much time online is not as good.
    Thanks for making me think!

  • simplady says:

    I still enjoy holding a book in my hands while reading. I like being able to pull it off the shelf and return to sections that spoke to me. I read most of my news on-line and prefer to read multiple sources, some international. As much as I wish it weren’t true, I find myself pulled into social media sites and also find that some of the news sites as well, seem to be more and more of a time drain. Thanks for presenting ideas to ponder.

  • hionmooniraj says:

    Hey! Call me old-world types but I still prefer to do my book reading over anything else. Tried kindle and moved back. But I read stories on cricket, politics (thewire, scroll,in and some blogs) on the phone or even on my laptop. It is a crazy debate and we are still discovering. Nice post…triggered a response.
    Tweet me at @HiOnMoon

  • Modern Gypsy says:

    I do read a lot online! I get my news online. I read a lot of special subject blogs. I take ecourses, again online. I like the fact that the online world has opened up so much – but I do try to balance it out with a lot of offline reading as well.

  • I spend more time online than I’d care to admit or is advisable. I still like the traditraditional newspapers and books, but still there is a lot that I read online, numerous blog posts, social media posts, etc. I need to curb it down.

  • asamryfhpl says:

    Hi Damyanti, As a librarian this is a fascinating question! My answer is a bit of a mash up. I think all the online reading I do affected the layout and organization of my book. I’m very subject driven, so that’s how my Apple News and Flipboard accounts are set up. That being said, I read a lot on Medium too, but have yet to post some of my own writing there. It was interesting to read some of the comments from your other followers. The only print paper I read is Sunday’s. Of course I spend my day at work reading and helping people predominantly through screens. I read all books in print. Most of my reading about librarianship is online, though sometimes if they are long, I print them out to read, and save for colleagues. It’s interesting that you exclude ebooks, as they are offline. We have digital ebooks and magazines and though they are downloadable, and technically offline, it is the interaction humans have on the page versus the screen that is fascinating to me personally and as a public librarian. Thanks for asking!

  • Soumya Prasad says:

    Apart from news, I pretty much read everything else online. I love the routine of reading newspapers with a cup of tea every morning. I do read news online during the day every now and then, but I still have stuck to the good old newspapers.

    I love reading book reviews, recipes and random articles online.

  • Asha Seth says:

    Hi Damyanti, I agree with you that some of the most best minds on the planet are hellbent toward transforming us into digital addicts. I too read inline a lot these days, and that’s about ebooks. I do skim through the internet for information but I spend awful less time on social media.

  • Kala Ravi says:

    Online reading is so easy that one slips into it without realizing how much of our time we spend on it. Most of it being on browsing useless news and stories and of course mind-numbing videos! Nowadays I am hooked to my kindle in an attempt to read stuff I really like.

  • Anant Chetan says:

    Hi, for anything other than news, I prefer books (as in the hard copies). Internet is the only news source for me. Unfortunately, even with internet, “being aware” has become way more difficult now as compared to my school days when I used to rely on newspapers and news magazines. I am specifically talking about Indian News. The media sources these days have started putting misleading information, they play with the raw data, manipulate it and put it across as per their requirements. And I am not talking about the social media, I am talking about the mainstream media. Of course there are official reports available on internet, I could read them and get the actual facts but it takes a lot of time and energy. For instance you could read my views on the way media portrayed Kerala floods. They literally generated a tsunami like effect out of a flood, even though it did not rain that much.

  • Jheelam says:

    As my job demands me to glue to my laptop-screen, I’m online “almost” round-the-clock. It does hamper my offline reading and lifestyle to a great extent.

    I’m in search of an app that would track down the number of hours I spend dilly-dallying on net, so that I can curb it down and focus more on what matters.

    And I made it a point not to read news online. So much chaos and fakery is injurious to mind.

  • The only time I read print media now is when I’m in a waiting room for an appointment and forgotten to bring my phone. Most of my reading is on desktop during the day and iPad at night. In some ways I’d like to go back in time to the days before the internet when we could bury ourselves in a real book. LOL. However that feeling doesn’t last long. There was no Wikipedia in those days to plumb all kind of knowledge, each article with links to something else that needed to be checked out before returning to the main item of research. How privileged we are to live in this age of instant information and a wealth of reading material on the internet.

  • arlene says:

    All the time. I read news, visit social media, blogs. E-books are just as wonderful.

  • John Hric says:

    Most of my reading is online. Blogs and various topics that catch my attention. Trying to get back into reading books and that has been fits and starts for a couple years now. I have totally pitched facebook. It is way too disfunctional as a product.

  • Barbara Ann Mojica says:

    I read online for all my emails, and prefer the computer to my kindle for my book reviews and research. Not a fan of mobile devices; I use them only occasionally.

  • Aniruddha says:

    not all that much. being a blogger, I read some selected blog posts. very seldom I read on the kindle titles not available in hard copies. my main interest is in cultural anthropology and archaeology. neither is written about in the net proper. so I’m a book reader by conpulsion.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I spend more time on the news now I’m in Canada – in the UK .. it’d be via the radio or tv in the evenings. I for some reason don’t read fiction any more – historical almost real fiction = yes … but mostly history type educative books – real … not online. I do a very little bit of FB – and mostly blogs via Feedly. I check things out … but prefer to make notes – as I learn and retain more easily that way. I do read both WordPress blogs and Blogger blogs as I have accounts for both – so they’re both easy to access …

    I certainly admire your ability to do so much online … and I don’t use my phone – perhaps I will in due course … I find that really difficult to use … cheers Hilary

  • I read “around writing” more, thanks to online lit. journals, craft blogs, and news. But lately my fiction reading (which I do only in real book form) has been done before bed only, cutting into the time I’m reading for pleasure. Need to think hard about this arrangement, since I want to read more fiction but don’t want to get less sleep!

  • DutchIl says:

    With a average day, approximately 4-5 hours in the morning (I am an observer for the National Weather Service, news, purchases online, etc) except for emergencies and with the exception of WordPress I avoid social media (there is a life without Facebook 🙂 )… the rest of the time I live life…. 🙂

    “I was going to post something on Facebook until I asked myself why.” David E. Love

  • Ana Daksina says:

    I now read online for six to tell hours each day — the uplifting, inspiring, informative and entertaining works of my treasured community of WordPress readers. From these I select perhaps a dozen a day to reblog for their delight.

    I can’t imagine being happier or more fulfilled in what I do, and I wouldn’t want the experience to change very much at all!

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