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Moving Away from Paper, Onto the Screen and Virtual Pages

ashley's picture

Books in their physical, tangible state, while still highly prevalent, face the question of if and when extinction of their kind is to take place. There are many forms into which books have evolved to better fit the lives of individuals in our society, but by evolving, are they now in danger of extinction? Physical, paper books have been shaped into films, making the plots and story lines more accessible without having to put the work forth of actually reading the book off of which a movie is based. While this is one way in which the access of stories is being transformed, there is yet another manner in in which access has been re-shaped, and that is through electronic means of reading, such as through the use of electronic books (e-books). Products as such allow for multiple literary works to be carried on one device, making for more accessible means of reading.

I would say that movies and e-books are the biggest forms of competition for traditional types of  books. These two fit into our society today by accommodating to the ever-changing lives of individuals. There is a much faster pace to life currently than there seemed to be generations ago. Due to this, individuals need forms of stories that will easily mold into their lives and fit into the small pockets of available time without much of a distraction to their daily routines. Movies, for one, take up much less time to complete from beginning to end than it does to read a novel, an advantage in this fast-paced society in which individuals are constantly on-the-go. The adaptation of book to film demonstrates the increase in the daily speed within society. People are no longer able to sit down, read, enjoy a book and let their minds paint the pictures for them. It is now much easier to view images and scenes that have been pre-constructed and projected onto a screen, requiring little to no work to be able to partake in the development of the story line. In many aspects, reading is seen as being too much work, and evolving society presents individuals with the desire to take time out of their busy days to shut down their brains, and films are a perfect way to do so. You can escape the way individuals used to escape in books, but with half of the effort exerted. Films require one to watch and listen, but you do not have to do much else.

Another accessibility feature includes that of the rise in television shows and movies screened online, making it even easier for individuals to choose this over other forms of entertainment during their down time. People can have the comfort of their homes while letting their minds rest and be taken on a ride by a motion picture. The number of individuals who pass their time watching shows online has increased over time, and the more time spent watching shows, the less time is spent internet usersWe also see how in general, it seems that the attention span for reading is minimal, or perhaps lengthy articles are simply not desired. The shorter the article, the more likely a reader will read it in its entirety.  This can provide evidence as to why it is that movies are such a popular pastime, they do not require reading attention spans. While there is a noted increase in the amount of internet TV that is watched, there is also an observed fluctuation in the amount of adults who read literature, with a dip occurring  in 2002 and a slight rise in 2008.
Literary evolution is also occurring in the  way in which it is presented to its audience. Electronic books (e-books) such as the Kindle are changing the way books are viewed. Previously, buying a book from the bookstore or checking it out of the library were the only ways to read books and take in the density of their content. But with the invention of e-books, carrying armfuls of books is a thing of the past. A larger quantity of reading material is made handy through these electronic means. This second branch of evolving access to literary works keeps the sanctity of actually reading a novel, but in a newly adopted form. Electronic books cater to the on-the-go lifestyle encountered in modern times. The Kindle offers a much more compact way to travel with a variety of novels and reading material, making it a lot easier to read when you do not have the time to sit down at home and do so.

In an interview done by msnbc, a Kindle user made the statement that “It definitely allows me to read more. I usually have two or three books going at the same time...”; which, of course, is a positive seeing the decline of amount of reading in the abovementioned chart. A second beneficial quality of the Kindle, similar to the first, is seen as its role in “...getting people to love books again. Making books less intimidating — a 50-page short story and a 800-page novel look the same when you hold them in your hand — and more likely to fit into your every day.” This goes along with accommodating to the current needs of members in our society. These qualities can be reflected in the aforementioned graph, where an increase was seen in adult reading literature when electronic reading was coming into contact with daily life. This alternative form of reading allows an array of books at your fingertips within one source, much more accessible than having to find the time not only to read the books, but the time to go to a bookstore or library to acquire reading material.

Both the transition to watching movies and using other online sources, as well as the transition to electronic books, speak to the issue of accessibility. They place stories within reach, be it through a new form of media such as film or through a product that will allow individuals to carry a collection of books with them wherever they go, allowing them to squeeze in reading time in moments of low-activity during their day. These evolutions and adaptations of literature to our daily needs may be necessary to preserve what is the beauty of story telling and receiving stories, although I will always be much fonder of the tangible pages within the bindings of a book as a opposed to the virtual pages of an e-book or to the quickly-resolved story line in a movie.



Anne Dalke's picture

Reading, squeezed

I've just read an essay by one of your classmates, A Story is a Story is a Story? which also looks @ the emerging forms of e- and audiobooks on the evolutionary landscape; you might enjoy reading this alternative exploration of the ideas you set forth here.

What strikes me first in your account is the insistent repetition of compressed time; you speak repeatedly of "small pockets of available time," of our "on-the-go lifestyle," of needing to "squeeze in reading time in moments of low-activity." The story you tell here is of a species who want and need their stories now in "handy," "accessible" forms "requiring little to no work," "making it a lot easier to read," forms in which their brains can "shut down," "letting their minds rest and be taken on a ride." 

So my first question would be a challenge to those presumptions, and a close-by place to begin might be with OrganizedKhaos' saying, earlier this semester, "I don't agree that film limits people's imagination….I get more of an expansion of what is already real." What is the data, in other words, on which you ground your claims that movies are easier to digest, challenge us less, require less work, are "a perfect way" to "shut down our brains"?

Along these lines, of wanting better data, I am more puzzled than instructed by the small graphs you include here. I want to know why, for instance, there was a rise in the number of reading adults in 2008 (@ one point you suggest that this occurred because "electronic reading was coming into contact with daily life"; has that correlation been tracked? Made causal?)

I'm struck, too, by the language of "competition" and "extinction" that seems rife in your essay, and would like to know more how Darwinian, how Spencerian, you think your own account is; how close to the processes of "natural" selection we've been tracing in this course, how strong you think marketing factors are in the processes you trace.

But my REAL, bottom line, question is one provoked by the final sentence of your essay: "I will always be much fonder of the tangible pages within the bindings of a book." Why do and how can you find conventional print media so compelling, in a landscape where everyone else (by your own account) hasn't the time? What are the factors that make your experience so distinct?