Here's the nagging problem with online reading: "When you're at a computer, your hands are always on the controls." When perusing an interesting piece of writing "you can always click away to check email or switch to another application, ready to do the next thing." This idea, explains Marco Arment to Wired's Tim Carmody, helps clarify why we have an information obesity epidemic. Just like with food, we have so many different choices that "we don't know how to control ourselves" and end up splurging on a little bit of everything, taking in far more than we really need.
This was partly the reason that lead the former Tumblr employee to create the reading application, Instapaper. The minimalist app, which strips all "toxic aspects" of online reading (web advertisements, cluttered formatting), promotes the stated goal of "attentive reading." The idea is that to be focused, all digital distractions must be absent from a reading device. In fact, "the fewer productivity tools a device has, the better it works as a reading machine." That's one reason why Amazon's Kindle is Arment's favorite device for cutting through the clutter:
One reason I love the Kindle, more so than the iPad, is that on the Kindle you can’t do anything else but read...It’s the best because it does the least. It doesn’t even show a clock.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.