Have You Ever Forgotten How to Use a Book?

We’ve all seen the videos of kids who try to use a paper magazine like they would an app, but did you know that adults sometimes make that same mistake?

I’ve made that mistake, and I was reminded about yesterday by a funny post over on Gizmodo. The author was reading a hefty book when he forgot he was reading a book:

I was reading Canetti’s Crowds and Power, a solid 400-page book. And then, as my eyes were approaching the end of yet another page, I swiped upwards.

My index finger, quite naturally, swiped upwards on the paper, in an attempt to move the lines I was reading more towards the middle of the page.

That post is getting an unreasonable amount of criticism from commenters, IMO. After I started reading the nasty comments I decided that it would be fun to post my story and invite contributions. I’ve made almost the same mistake as that other blogger, and it is as funny to me then as it is now.

This was back in the dark ages of ebooks (2007, I believe). I was studying at the time and I had my laptop and a few reference and technical books spread out in front of me. These were big books, most the size of textbooks, and they were in between me and my laptop.

To make a long story short, when I needed to turn the page of one of the books I reached out and pressed the page down button on my keyboard.  Obviously it didn’t work, but it took me a few second to realize that.

I’ve never forgotten that story, and I still get a chuckle out of it. Do you have any similar tales? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. carmen webster buxton11 April, 2013

    I have handwritten a note, misspelled a word, and paused, waiting for the pen to correct the spelling. 🙂

  2. Nate11 April, 2013

    To be honest I do this all the time because 99% of my reading is done on my e-reader, I find myself sliding my finger from right to left across pages and just get lucky because actual pages turn that way too.

  3. igorsk11 April, 2013

    Anyone ever tried to shoo away a fly with the mouse cursor?

  4. KarlB11 April, 2013

    On the opposite hand, I once tried to go to the next page on my Kindle by turning it front-to-back like a page. In my defense, I was reading in bed and was about half asleep at the time.

  5. David Scrimshaw11 April, 2013

    I have a friend who reports that she has more than once forgotten herself and put her finger on a word in a paper book to bring up the dictionary definition.

  6. DavidW11 April, 2013

    Pinch to zoom on a paper book.

  7. Angela Booth12 April, 2013

    Yes, done it all — tapped to change the page, pressed my finger on a word to get the dictionary, kept looking at the top of the page expecting to see the clock.

    Once you get used to ebooks, it’s very hard to go back. I’ve got a stack of paper books I should read, but I’d rather read ebooks. Paper books seem like too much trouble. 🙂

  8. Menko12 April, 2013

    I was wondering once how to change the font size of a book I was reading because it was far too small. Took me a second to remember that there’s no button for that on books…

  9. Thomas12 April, 2013

    I haven’t, but I started ereading before touchscreens were common, so I think in terms of buttons rather than gestures. That keeps the two separate in my mind.

  10. David Gaughran12 April, 2013

    I’m trying to read a print book for the first time in about 18 months. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to do it. The book feels so heavy, I can’t find a comfortable way to hold it (hardcover) that doesn’t bother me within a few minutes, and I certainly don’t want to lug it around with me. The net result is that I’ve read about 20 pages in three months – despite the fact that the story itself is superb. In the meantime I’ve read more books than I can remember on my Kindle (basic model), which comes pretty much everywhere with me.

  11. Justin12 April, 2013

    I’ve also put my finger on an unknown word in a paperbook in order to see the definition.

  12. Smoley12 April, 2013

    Hahaha. Now old farts like me can laugh at you kids’ ineptitude, just as you have poked fun at us when we struggle with your confounded digital gizmos.

    Damn it! The blasted VCR is blinking 12:00 again…

  13. Myra14 April, 2013

    I’ve touched a word on a real book waiting for the definition to pop up. Then again, I once stopped at a stop sign…while I was walking. True story, happened in 2000.

  14. Amy14 April, 2013

    I have stood in front of my front door waving my keys, expecting the door to unlock (my car does this).

    I’ve also stuck my hands under a facet and waited for water though there are clearly handles indicating this is not a motion detector based sink.

  15. Gary Smith15 April, 2013

    I can’t say I’ve literally done it, but I’ve certainly WISHED I could press a word for a definition, or made the font bigger.

    My biggest hangup with real books now is trying to keep the pages open where I want them when I’m also juggling a cup of coffee or the like.

  16. BlueBindweed15 April, 2013

    Habit, habit, habit we get into sometimes. I’ve been known to start typing CTRL-Z in the air when I’ve done something galactically stupid in real life, then remember that life doesn’t work like a screen and I can’t unring that bell.

  17. Becki15 April, 2013

    I’m more likely to get confused when switching between my tablet (that is usually docked to a keyboard) and my netbook (which is 3-4 years old). I keep trying to press the icons on my netbook screen to start the program, or swiping to go to another page of apps. Oops. I read enough print books on a regular basis that I don’t have the mental problem switching between them and ebooks.


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