Reading the novel or the Sparks version?

Jackie Stine, AP Lit Set 4

Those who have developed digital devices have done so with the intent to make our lives simpler. They, the inventors, have contributed their gifted minds and hard work in order to achieve technological advances that include the ability to access information any time and any where.

Most people believe computers and other devices are helpful tools in learning and understanding, although others may realize that these devices can handicap the minds of students and encourage apathy in learning. The most praised aspect of the Internet is the availability of multiple resources. Popular sites for students provide online book summaries and research engines, which if used improperly can be a hindrance to students developing their own understanding and learning.

Online book summaries, like Spark Notes, are the Internet’s version of the original store-bought summaries. Does the brand name Cliff’s Notes ring a bell? Well, initially, Cliff’s Notes and Spark Notes were made to offer “limited assistance” to people in understanding complex literary works and dense novels. Abusers of these resources have rapidly increased as technology continues to grow, contradicting the intentions of those who created them.

The inclination of human nature is to seek “the easy way out.” It is this fault that drives us to misuse resources established for our benefit. Sadly, when we surrender to this fault by reading Spark Notes instead of an assigned novel, consequences do occur. Yes, Spark Notes may have gotten you an A on the test, but it is a form of cheating, and that is cheating yourself.

Reading is the gateway to the brain. It is the foundation of all education. Without a solid foundation, eventually any structure will collapse.

Another reason to read is that people accumulate an abundance of knowledge and understanding while reading. The novels that teachers require usually are classics written throughout time. Reading the classics teaches us about the past. By only reading overviews about a book we lose the connection with the characters, and do not grasp the themes and values that the authors worked so hard to express. Therefore, not reading is a choice to remain ignorant. More of the same mistakes are bound to take place if students continue to make this choice. It is imperative that this generation understands that without exploring the insights of others, we cannot develop our own insights.

Taking short cuts when you read will lead to taking short cuts when you do other things in life. For instance, consider research, another issue causing the decline in books. Too many students own library cards but have not checked out a book in years, even during research paper season. When writing a research paper, students dismiss the library because why look for a book when you can type your topic in a search engine? Plus, search engines supply a ton of information.

In one student’s remark to a recent survey question about which research resources students prefer, she revealed, “I use the Internet because it’s faster.” The last question on the survey dealt with whether each student knows how to find a book in the library by herself. Although several answered yes, some did admit to not knowing how, never having tried, “sometimes…” and “yes, but it would take a long time.” With all those who said they know how, though, all but two said they used only the Internet when researching. Technology companies want us to believe using the Internet is more efficient, but let’s face it, the words “more efficient”  may mean “easy way out.”

As a result, many students may not develop an appreciation for books. How could they not? Books have transformed into just another version of Spark Notes. Libraries do not even carry as many books as they once did because fewer people check them out. Google is the new Encyclopedia Brown of this generation, although many people do not know who Encyclopedia Brown is. Google would tell you he is a character in a children’s book series. So the next time you go to sparknotes.com, think twice, because the time you save now could double the time you spend on another task in the future.