“The Technology Of Books Has Changed, But Bookstores Are Hanging In”

NPR story (May 28, 2015): “…independent bookstores overall are enjoying a mini-revival, with their numbers swelling 25 percent since 2009, according to the American Booksellers Association. Sales are up, too. Remarkably, it’s a revival fueled, at least in part, by digital natives like 23-year-old Ross Destiche, who’s hauling an armful of books to the register. “Nothing matches the feel and the smell of a book,” he says. “There’s something special about holding it in your hand and knowing that that’s the same story every time, and you can rely on that story to be with you.”

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“Being a Better Online Reader”

“Soon after Maryanne Wolf published “Proust and the Squid,” a history of the science and the development of the reading brain from antiquity to the twenty-first century, she began to receive letters from readers. Hundreds of them. While the backgrounds of the writers varied, a theme began to emerge: the more reading moved online, the less students seemed to understand. There were the architects who wrote to her about students who relied so heavily on ready digital information that they were unprepared to address basic problems onsite. There were the neurosurgeons who worried about the “cut-and-paste chart mentality” that their students exhibited, missing crucial details because they failed to delve deeply enough into any one case. And there were, of course, the English teachers who lamented that no one wanted to read Henry James anymore. As the letters continued to pour in, Wolf experienced a growing realization: in the seven years it had taken her to research and write her account, reading had changed profoundly—and the ramifications could be felt far beyond English departments and libraries…”

From Maria Konnikova, “Being a Better Online Reader,The New Yorker (July 16, 2014)

Why can’t we read anymore?

From Hugh McGuire at Medium.com:

“…It turns out that digital devices and software are finely tuned to train us to pay attention to them, no matter what else we should be doing. The mechanism, borne out by recent neuroscience studies, is something like this:

  • New information creates a rush of dopamine to the brain, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good.
  • The promise of new information compels your brain to seek out that dopamine rush….”

“Poetry is going extinct, government data show”

From the Washington Post (April 24, 2015):

…the “ever-elusive question of readership: does anyone read poetry anymore? Given the widespread availability of poetry on the internet, “its possible that poetrys audience might be greater now than ever,” wrote Kate Angus in The Millions last year. But the numbers below show that that’s emphatically not the case. Some people are still reading it, although that number has been dropping steadily over the past two decades.”

…”Assessing the state of contemporary poetry using survey data and Google Trends feels kind of like measuring the quality of a painting based on how large the canvas is. But just as you can’t truly appreciate a work of art without viewing it in the flesh and on the wall, neither can you come to terms with the current state of poetry without understanding that for 20 years, the readers have been taking their attention elsewhere — and not even the internet is making them come back.”

[visualizations of data included with the article]