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September 17, 2010

Information Overload

According to a August 25 article in the Wall Street Journal, 40% of e-reader owners report reading more than they did before owning an e-reader.  Portability is a leading factor in the increase.  Readers are able to carry multiple electronic books and read them in places they wouldn't haul a backpack load of texts.  The same article reports that the social publishing and reading website Scribd.com is used for sharing books and documents 10 million times each month.

People are used to staring at screens, small and large.  They're reading more, and they're also reading differently.  In the following NPR clip, author William Powers talks about his new book Hamlet's Blackberry and his take on information overload in the digital age.

In an excerpt from the book, Powers states: "The more connected we are, the more we depend on the world outside ourselves to tell us how to think and live. There’s always been a conflict between the exterior, social self and the interior, private one. The struggle to reconcile them is central to the human experience, one of the great themes of philosophy, literature, and art. In our own lifetime, the balance has tilted decisively in one direction. We hear the voices of others, and are directed by those voices, rather than by our own. We don’t turn inward as often or as easily as we used to."

I'm wondering how the changes in reading habits and shifts away from introspection will affect the type of books readers choose to read.  Will the market for books shift toward easy reads, something to digest quickly during a commute?  Will serial novels become popular?  Or, will tastes remain largely unchanged?

What do you think?

1 comment:

James said...

I worry that, as modern consumers of the written word, it is becoming increasingly attractive to read the 'quick read.' To me, it seems that these books aren't particularly well written and have little substance,...and there seem to be more and more of them. I would imagine that publishers would be inclined to push these books out, especially on the newly popularized e-readers. How will today's best sellers compare to beloved classics? I shudder to think about it.