The Time it Takes [to read]

(This started out as a short parenthetical, whoops): To me, the debate about e-readers versus traditional print books is misguided. Print books aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and neither are libraries. E-books, however, are here to stay, and thank goodness. I love my Kindle. But to me the point is less about how one chooses to read a book and more about whether or not one bothers to read at all. And it’s not just about reading a hardback, paperback, on a Kindle, Nook, or iPad, fiction or non-fiction, I don’t care; it’s become more a question of whether or not people are even capable of (or care to) concentrating long enough to read anything for sustained periods of time. That’s why I love this cartoon from The New Yorker, and why it is disheartening.

Having become so accustomed to digesting information in sound bites, in one hundred forty characters or less, via status updates full of links to more links, the idea of reading a three hundred page book hasn’t just become laughable, for many people it’s become impossible — not the act of reading itself, but the willingness to sit down and try, the idea that something about the activity of reading is worth the time it takes.

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3 Responses to The Time it Takes [to read]

  1. Good points and interesting post. I agree wholeheartedly that the debate is misguided! Libraries seem to have become the arena where our fears about continuity vs. change play out rather than an actual competition between print and e-books. Besides, e-books have the potential to be much different than print books, meaning both could exist as separate, non-competing things.

    I graduated in May and I’m having to re-teach myself how to enjoy, savor, and take time with a book. I think part of it is a time issue and the feeling that time must be optimized so we rush through everything without actually settling into an activity and relaxing through it. And also probably related to our education system for the youth. If you have 50+ pages of reading a night for three classes, an essay for another, and a test it’s the reading that will be pushed to the side, sadly.

  2. Dan says:

    I totally hear you there. In 2010, I found that I had pretty much stopped reading entirely. So I challenged myself to read 25 books that year – it was only two per month. I struggled to do it, but I made it just in the nick of time. The next year, I read 55 books. This year, I’m trying to read 75, but I’m only up to 34 so I may fall short of that (admittedly) lofty goal.

    I do think that the internet bears a lot of the blame, at least in my case anyway. It’s so much easier to zone out at the computer and there is a lot of truth in your assessment that for so many people, it’s just impossible. Glad to not be one of those people.

  3. Jill Johnson says:

    Now that I’ve read your post I no longer feel guilty about letting my 10 year old son buy a bumper sticker in Santa Fe that says “Read a fucking book!” xxox-jj

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