So you can read my books

Monday, February 25, 2013


No, I am not going to talk about the ACADEMY AWARDS:

The people I want to win won't.  The speeches will go on too long.

I have a longer than usual attention-span, mind you, but staying up until
midnight for BEST PICTURE seems a bit too much.

In fact, increasingly, we are all like the one-year-old in the recent viral video
who seems to think a magazine is an iPad that doesn’t work.

As this video demonstrates, to a 1-year-old, Apple's iPad is something that's
literally been around all of their lives.

So rather than be amazed at all the things an iPad can do,
this child is confounded by what a paper magazine cannot do.
Makes sense, right?

Pretend it’s 15 years from now, and the 1-year-old in the video is a teenager.
What would you tell her about what reading in 2013 was like?

What aspects of reading now do you imagine
will be different then?

What will you miss?

Take a look at just a few new models to get your mind thinking,
 including Al Gore’s new book
in which a reader can blow on wind turbines to make them turn.

The three models in “The Future of the Book” video from IDEO;

 This collection of 21 e-books for children in which the periodic table
of the elements comes alive,

and the illustrations for Alice in Wonderland move around the page at the reader’s whim;

and some books with soundtracks.

I find it hard to imagine reading a novel like “Anna Karenina,” though,

and jumping away from the book every page or so to follow some hyperlink,

in part because it would end up taking a year (or years) to read.

 Is Google making us stupid?

“We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf,

a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and
the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.

“We are how we read.”

Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency”
and “immediacy” above all else,

may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading

that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press,
made long and complex works of prose commonplace.

When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.”

Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form
when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely

{NO DOGS ALLOWED sign from Spain}

Experiments demonstrate that readers of ideograms, such as the Chinese,

develop a mental circuitry for reading that is very different
from the circuitry found in those of us whose written language employs an alphabet.

Sometime in 1882, Friedrich Nietzsche bought a typewriter.
His vision was failing, and keeping his eyes focused on a page had become
exhausting and painful.

The typewriter rescued him for a time.

Once he had mastered touch-typing, he was able to write with his eyes closed,
using only the tips of his fingers.

Words could once again flow from his mind to the page.

 But the machine had a subtler effect on his work.

One of Nietzsche’s friends, a composer, noticed a change in the style of his writing.
His already terse prose had become even tighter, more telegraphic.

The friend wrote in a letter, noting that, in his own work,
 his “‘thoughts’ in music and language often depend on the quality of pen and paper.”

As people’s minds become attuned to the crazy quilt of Internet media,
traditional media have to adapt to the audience’s new expectations.

Television programs add text crawls and pop-up ads,
and magazines and newspapers shorten their articles,
introduce capsule summaries,
and crowd their pages with easy-to-browse info-snippets.

This generation will cling to their reading, but what about their children
and grandchildren?

Will we readers end up looking like those elderly men who wear their waistlines
pulled up halfway to their armpits?

Are books of depth and length a thing of the past?

Are books which demand reflection and thought becoming
the modern dinosaurs?

"A muscian must make music;
an artist must paint;
a poet must write,
if he is to be at peace with himself.
What a man can be, he must be."
- Abraham Maslow.


  1. I wonder how the reading competency of the average student or adult is suffering from the use of short forms of communication. I suspect it's getting worse.

    Books that demand reflection are only demanding a thinking mind, not a lazy mind that wants everything delivered in small bites.

  2. Intriguing post, Roland. Since I can't stand music or any noise when I read, sound is a big no thank you. :)

    I can certainly see the value in the multi-media approach for travel books as well as for some non-fiction (like an INCONVENIENT TRUTH). And the interactive books would be awesome for young children. But reading is an act which stimulates the *brain* to create sounds, smells, images, tastes, etc. from the written (or spoken, if audio) word. These books aren't designed to be "read." The interactive experience is totally different from that of reading. Not better, not worse, just different

    The "Alice" portion of the Vimeo vid reminded me of the old story-based point and click adventure games of the past. Gabriel Knight, for example. I loved those story-based games, but again, they didn't constitute "reading."

    I'd love to see some of this technology applied to graphic novels.

    All that said, what's the point of creating a book where the reader can blow and make wind turbines turn? For a three year old, sure. But an adult??? Give me a break.

    ~VR Barkowski

  3. It may appear books are on the endangered species list but I don't believe they will become extinct. For all the ready information provided by the internet, I have a healthy library at home and still much prefer to research from them. I also believe the information to be more reliable.

    Another reason is because there is nothing quite like the feel and smell of a brand new book. Nor do books lose their charm with age. Those which are most loved become worn with constant flicking through the pages but are cared for and held with reverence. You don't get the same kind of dignity from an lcd screen.

    That is why I don't believe books will ever die, but maybe I'm becoming a dinosaur myself.

  4. It will be interesting to see how it changes. The interactive kids' books are cool, and I admit I like interactive magazines, but I like my novels to be just text.
    It wasn't until NaNo 2010 that I discovered I really do write better when I type a manuscript first rather than write it by hand.

  5. I think of my love for books and I see my grandkids with their e-readers and smart pads and I just feel sad.

  6. I think people are reading more books than ever these days. But maybe that's just me.

  7. I totally agree with Michael Offutt. In my case, however, it's the good old-fashioned paperback though.

  8. D.G.:
    You raise a point scientists are making: twitter is damaging the grammar, spelling, and reasoning ability of the young people living on it. Sad.

    The technology is being applied to some graphic novels, WATCHMEN being the one that springs to mind.

    For children these books are magic come to life. For adults blowing on "air turbines" is just silly. LOL.

    Wasn't that Alice vid interesting? A bit of the old delievered in the manner of the future.

    Reading turns the mind interactive not the eye which graphic media does. I am a dinosaur I'm afraid. :-)

    For our generation, tangible books will always be our preferred medium. Alas as more generations follow us, I fear print books will slowly fade away.

    Like you, writing by typing is my preferred method. The future opens to so many dazzling new roads, but my heart will always belong to print books. :-)

    Your kids and grandkids will lose the kind of magic only print books can give. I remember holding a heavy leather volume of KING ARTHUR'S KNIGHTS in my small hands, smelling the leather, lightly touching the ink illustrations, and wisking myself to Camelot.

    We as writers see a portion of the population who read more than those I work with, for whom reading was left behind in high school and college.

    As a teen, I could only afford paperbacks. :-) I remember working all summer for a hardbound volume, containing all the adventures and novels of Sherlock Holmes. When it burned with my home, it was a true blow.