I read lots of books. And blogs. And magazines. And online articles. (Newspapers, not so much.)
And I get an F.
We’ve turned into a culture of scanners. We might read the first two or three lines of a piece of writing. After that, we read less and less of the lines that follow. Our scanning ends up in the shape of an F.
A couple of years ago, I read a book called The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. I don’t typically keep extensive notes on books I read, but I did on this one. It fascinated me. Here’s one of the quotes I saved.
“The ability to skim text is every bit as important as the ability to read deeply. What is different, and troubling, is that skimming is becoming our dominant mode of reading. Once a mean to an end, a way to identify information for deeper study, scanning is becoming an end in itself—our preferred way of gathering and making sense of information of all sorts” (p. 138).
As a writer, perhaps I should be perturbed by this research conclusion. As a reader, though, I’m guilty as charged.
Other writers have a small window of opportunity to capture my attention and lure me into a fuller experience, whether fiction or non-fiction. The fact that I know this is true for me certainly convicts me that I don’t have long to pull readers in, either.
So two questions.
1. How many people are still reading at this point in my post?
2. What do you think this reality means for the future of books?