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The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember Hardcover – 1 Sep 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848872259
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848872257
  • Product Dimensions: 16.7 x 2.7 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 369,181 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Nicholas Carr has written an important and timely book. See if you can stay off the web long enough to read it! --Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Nicholas Carr is the author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. He is a contributor to the New York Times, Guardian, Financial Times and Wired and was formerly the executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. Nick blogs at

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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Sept. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Is our constant exposure to electronic stimuli good for us? Can we transform the data we receive into the knowledge we need? Are we swapping deep understanding for shallow distractions?

In this book, Nicholas Carr argues that our constant exposure to multiple and faster data streams is changing the way our brains are wired. This change, which is due to the inherent plasticity of the brain, tends to reduce our capacity to absorb and retain what we read. Mr Carr cites a number of different studies to support his views, and the book makes for interesting reading.

Mr Carr acknowledges that the digital world brings both advantage and disadvantage: `Every tool imposes limitations even as it opens possibilities.' The Internet is a wonderful tool for finding information, but value usually requires some analysis, and often requires a context which is not always immediately obvious. How do we find a balance between those aspects of life that require self-awareness, time and careful consideration, and those aspects of life where an automatic (or semi automatic) response is more appropriate and perhaps even required? Do we understand what choices we have, or are we responding in line with the immediacy of the medium we are using? Are we consumers of data or evaluators of information? Does it matter? I think it does: `The more distracted we become, the less able we are to experience the subtlest, most distinctly human forms of empathy, compassion, and emotion.'

The most valuable aspect of this book, to me, was thinking about the short and long term consequences of the Internet. Those of us who grew to adulthood before the Internet shaped the way we work and communicate have (to varying degrees) embraced the benefits and new possibilities afforded.

A return to the past is neither possible nor desirable - but conscious choice is both.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Harm Hilvers on 15 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I was younger, there was no internet. I filled my days with going to primary school, playing with friends and reading books. When I went to secondary school, there were a few computers with internet access and I had no internet connection at house. At the end of six years of education the internet was available everywhere: there were many computers with internet access at school and my parents had subscribed to a fast internet plan at home. What happened in the ten years that followed is history: the internet became pervasive and was accessible from everywhere.

I have lived in two worlds: one in which there was no internet and one in which there was. Of course, I was influenced by both worlds and I have the feeling that this makes me - just like many more people of about my age - a bit special. I have learned to appreciate books and what they can teach people. But I have also discovered what the internet can bring to the table: instant access to lots of information and friends. People who are older than I am, appreciate print stuff more than they appreciate web things. For those younger than me, it's the opposite. Of course, these are generalizations and over-simplifications, but my generation has a big advantage over the ones that went before and came after: we live and lived in both pre-internet and internet times.

Why this story? Well, I think it illustrates Carr's argument quite nicely. In this book, Carr tells us that the internet has physiological and neurological effects on the brain. Because of the way the internet is structured, namely around short bits of hyperlinked information, our brain gets attuned to this new method, which is fundamentally different from the 'old' way of the book or the 5000 word article.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Syriat TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
The Shallows is a book that comes with quite a bit of hype and promise. It covers the Internet phenomenon and how its changing our deep thinking skills and ability to read and process information properly. It was also short-listed for the Pulitzer prize this year. Its not a particularly long book - just over 200 pages. However, it will take a little time to read as it can get quite technical with neurological functions being explained. It certainly isn't aimed at those whose attention has been affected by the internet. This being said it does bring quite a bit of evidence to the table and explain the issues well. The chapter on Google is very illuminating. There are digression chapters which tend to be written in the first person and relate to the authors experiences. These digressions are of some interest but sometimes they can just distract - the very thing that the author says the internet does to its users.

The problems that I had with the book, aside from getting through it which I managed to do over a period of five days, are about the missed opportunities and bias. A lot of the evidence here actually relates to people who are 30+. This is important and shows how the adoption of the internet has changed their thinking and reading. However, the internet natives of under 20 who are only used to the internet are not covered in as much depth. There is some evidence but not a lot and their experiences are vital as they are only used to the internet. I was left with the question of what the effect is on that demographic. I have experience with them at work and can probably make some assumptions but not from what is contained in this book. On the very last page some quotes for the positives of the internet of our thinking are given and the quickly dismissed.
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