Futures of literary reading


Contribute one post of substance to this page on the specific topic of present and future forms of literary reading. The rhetorical model will be the entries in I Read Where I Am, so the deadline will be May 21, the second day we discuss this text. The topic of “futures” is grandiose so your comments can and perhaps should be speculative, if not visionary, if you take this approach. You may want to be less speculative, however, and comment on present habits, an experimental print text, or one of the works of electronic literature on our syllabus.


30 thoughts on “Futures of literary reading

  1. I have a little free time today, so I wander over to my bookshelf and try to find something that appeals to me. After all, I love reading and I still consider it one of my main hobbies. And yet, nothing jumps out at me. Mystery, fantasy, classic literature, romance, novels for adults and children, yet in all that variety I can’t find anything that makes me want to settle down for the rest of the day. With a restless feeling, I open my computer up and start searching through fanfiction sites, hoping that I can still find a way to read with my spare time. In a matter of minutes I am grinning in my excitement, frantically copying the link into the browser on my iPad so I can download it and read it without any other distractions. After 10 minutes, I am lost to the world.

    But even here, reading is not a strictly linear process. Curled up in my bed, I read happily until something catches my attention. Maybe it’s a concept that intrigues me, a line that is especially gorgeous, or appreciation at the clever way a familiar world has been adapted into something new for the universe the author is creating. I reach for my phone, text my friend what fanfic I’m reading and whatever it was that caught my attention, and then I settle back into the world of the text. Later she’ll comment on it or ask me for the link so she can return the favor.

    The older I get, the more reading becomes a social activity that falls in a specific area of interest. I don’t just want a fantasy book, I want a fantasy book with complex female characters, slowly developing romance, clever in jokes to an audience that already knows what’s going on, and maybe some pirates. I want to be able to immerse myself quickly in a new world, and I want to be able to share that world with other readers like me, who exist in that same specialized group. Fanfiction has increasingly become that perfect space for me.

    I’m not saying that all of it is good. I’m just as likely to close out of a story for poor characterization as I am to keep reading, but the free instantaneous mode of transport keeps me engaged and trying on a nearly constant basis. I can message the author directly my appreciation for what they wrote, knowing that they are unlikely to see any profit besides this appreciation and creation of community. They wrote it for themselves and I read it for myself.

    In a capitalist economy that is constantly battling for sales figures and attention, the thing I find myself returning to most is an art form and literary form that exists almost entirely outside of it. Doesn’t that point to an interesting future.

  2. I’m sitting at work. My supervisor is sitting behind me, reading over my shoulder as we both try to sort out a problem with the database that we have both been working on. “Slow down,” she says as I scroll through the endless lists of work titles. I’m scrolling faster than her eyes can register what we are both looking at, yet I am able to pick out what words are flashing across the screen as I search for the one in particular that we are looking for.
    Skimming isn’t a new concept. It’s a form of passive reading that has been present for a long time. It is the same passive reading skill that we apply when looking at street signs, billboards, and storefronts. However, now it has climbed up to be our top form of consumptive reading. Generationally, the difference shows.
    As in the example above there are many instances in which the younger generations of today are simply able to glean relevant information more quickly from the endless barrage of seemingly disorganized mess that is our social media environment. The act of skimming for relevant information in a media environment like todays is like searching for a needle, or even a dozen needles, in the proverbial haystack. When only skimming or sifting through that information, you may only find a few of those needles. Things will be missed, which seems to beg the question, in today’s society where faster = better, are we sacrificing accuracy for perceived efficiency in areas such as reading?

  3. Individual written literature is much like a single piece of jigsaw puzzle. Each piece of the puzzle represents an idea of a person that is waiting to be connected to another idea to create the full portrait, the collective consciousness of the human minds. These connections are happening in a more expedient manner through the innovation of the internet and its ability to store, quickly access, and catalog vast quantities of past, present, and future literary pieces of works.

    As we have discussed often throughout the quarter, the invention of the internet does have its pitfalls— namely the way we read today. Many of us have felt the effects, we are unable to closely read literary works, but the fear of the loss of this skill is only a fear and has yet to proven to be true. There will always be people who can dissect and interpret literature, “The Detailed Oriented” types of people.

    Instead of focusing on the change of the individual, we should perhaps consider the notion of how the internet is introducing a new style of reading. This new style that is not harmful to an individual, but instead is beneficial to a society. This new style of reading is one which is focused on the “Bigger Picture”, through the reader’s ability to power browse vast quantities of text, and taking the individual pieces of literature to craft the grand portrait of the facts, the lies, the hypotheticals, and the abstracts.

  4. I believe that in the present day in age the average American person does a lot more reading than they are aware of. With that said, the type of reading that we usually participate in is casual and it occurs in short spurts throughout the day. The reason for this is due to the technological mediums that people in first world countries have readily available, at their fingertips, quite literally. Smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers all provide a person with a vast amount of easily accessible reading material. A lot of the reading we do on these devices takes place in our free time. Whether scanning through a social media platform, reading the latest news, or reading the lyrics that go along with a popular song you just heard, people are reading. This relatively new form of reading is certainly different from reading in a traditional sense. However, it should not be downplayed because as time progresses it seems that reading, as we once knew it, will be replaced by this newer, fast-paced manner of scanning. Consuming information at an alarmingly quick rate is becoming essential and very useful as well. It allows people to switch between tasks and multitask like never before. While we may not be reading a large volume of text at one given time, people are still consuming a large amount of text bit by bit, throughout their day-to-day lives.
    I do not believe that the current style of reading should be looked at in a negative way. For the people who are concerned that the more traditional forms of reading are becoming a thing of the past, that is not necessarily true. It is still highly beneficial to be a proficient or even an excellent reader in the traditional sense. There are still numerous important professions that require a high caliber of reading ability. For reasons such as this, I believe that the reading and analysis of novels and other such works is very essential. Schools should continue to require a certain amount of reading for homework. Reading and comprehension should also definitely remain testable subjects at school. If the school systems are able to continue requiring and enforcing that students actually complete and understand assigned reading, I think we would see readers who are more proficient than ever before. The combination of absorbing knowledge at the 21st century rate, while maintaining a solid foundation of essential reading skills could be tremendous for people all over the world. The two different skillsets could complement one another instead of having the newer forms of reading replace the older ones.

  5. Reading has certainly become a topic of hot debate ever since the rise of the internet. Various sources nowadays claim that Americans are reading less than ever before. While this may be true and American children, teens, and even adults are reading less and less, perhaps we should not think so negatively of this phenomenon. Yes, people are not reading tangible books anymore, but there is a whole other source that provides the public with endless amounts of information: the internet. We seem to underestimate the internet at times as we somehow believe that the youth of today are not learning anymore because they fail to read books. The internet provides so much information that is easily obtainable and sometimes that information may not even be available in books. In a way, the younger generation are continuing to read; they are just doing it in a very different manner that is unfamiliar to the older generation.

    There is no denying that people, particularly the younger generation are slowly changing the way they read. Instead of absorbing and analyzing what they read, they skim through pages, tabs, and texts of information. While there is no arguing that this is completely different from “deep reading”, it is something that the younger generation have mastered. This is not to say that this new method of reading and processing information is bad. In fact, it can be seen as quite practical. Perhaps instead of discouraging or questioning the validity of this new method of receiving and processing, schools and the education system can seek to find ways to hone this ability more. While I agree that reading tangible novels should still be encouraged, schools may integrate resources that appeal to the younger generation’s way of thinking. It is still equally important to have students understand and critically analyze what they are reading, but schools may also learn to become more accepting this new method of reading and to perhaps understand that there are pro’s that come along with the ability to skim and process information quickly.

  6. I scroll through the article, picking up a few key words and reading the sidebar at the same time to see if there’s anything more interesting to switch off to. Gossip, new album releases, sports news. That seems to be the only thing I read now in my free time. Everything for schoolwork requires that I isolate myself from my computer, or else I find myself blasting through reddit posts or more mindless article browsing.
    But I really am still able to read when it comes down to it. I understood from a young age that reading as important. I learned the controls for all my video games from instruction manuals. It was always amusing to find a friend who was astonished with simple button combinations readily available in the basic pamphlets that came with the games.
    That’s when I read for entertainment as well. A good book after a day of schoolwork always got my mind into a more relaxed state and I was able to dive into my own worlds. But as the internet took a more prominent stance in my everyday goings and social networking began to slowly take root in my time consumption, I needed to be able to intake as much information as I could. I began to artfully skip through all types of readings instead of my previous method of perusing and carefully taking in every word.
    This method went from a switchable method to habit and then to normality. In order to keep myself from seeking out new information, I need to be in either a state of panic due to pressure and deadlines or in an environment which keeps me from being distracted. I can easily tune out notifications and other blinking intrusions after I become invested in a text or immersed within a story, but to achieve that kind of state without breaking concentration is a daunting task. I can easily be doing research about a country on Wikipedia when I see mention of a strawberry. Clicking on that only leads to an entirely tangential and usually very useless (but fun) information binge in which I learn all about penguin migration patterns and how exactly to carve a violin out of oak wood, but completely forget about initial page that still needs reading. That is, until I am broken out of this state by a text message or a social media notification.
    So what exactly is going to become of reading in the future? Many avenues will find ways to promote themselves to this want for more interesting content. Youtube, as a video sharing platform, already inspires this practice. The things that are produced well and shared constantly will be throw into the recommendation algorithm more often. Articles that you have previously clicked on will influence what certain sites will show you, much like how amazon monitors your purchases. Reading books themselves and content that require longer periods of concentration will probably do their best to wipe out their flashy ads and probably engineer “theater” modes that make it easier on the eyes and also auto disable notifications from other pages and applications.
    It seems like because this new form of constant skimming and switching is becoming more popular and the more normal method as opposed to sitting down and digesting hundreds of pages at once, new forms of literary reading will be made to accommodate it rather than try and bring it back.

  7. In the age of distraction, I believe digital prints will be common. Tablets and digital copies are chosen over physical copies every single day. Economically and environmentally, I understand why the digital is preferable. Digital versions of books are often cheaper and trees don’t have to be cut down in order to create numerous copies of one book. However because of the digitization of literary works, older generations believe this generation no longer reads. I argue that we are constantly reading. In the age of distraction, we are constantly reading emails, texts, messages, statuses, captions, etc. Articles and creative fiction are written specifically for the digital age. For example, there are ebooks that aren’t available as a print copy. There are blog posts that will never have been accessible had the platform never been invented. However, reading a physical copy of a book is still common.
    In order to conduct research, I made a trip to our campus library. As a person who normally conducts research online, I felt out of place as I stepped foot in the building. Despite my three years of attendance and countless research papers, I have never ventured to the library to look for sources. After an hour of research with the Film and Media librarian for appropriate sources, I set off into unknown territory. As I weaved through the aisles, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. The scent of bound books invaded my nose and the rough binding scratched my fingertips. I thought back to my childhood when the internet didn’t serve as a distraction. As I continued to search the aisles for the books I required, I found myself hesitant to take a book off the shelf. I wasn’t used to being careful as I handled the delicate and aging objects. I wasn’t used to having pages slip and nick my skin. I wasn’t used to hearing the squeak of an old book being opened for the first time in months, maybe years. I purchase books and texts to read for classes, but the books I picked up off the shelves were older and needed to be handled with care. I didn’t have to worry about this when I conduct research online. At the same time, however, I couldn’t help but notice the number of people sitting in the library reading articles online and ignoring the fact that years of knowledge stood on shelves behind them.
    We read what we want to read. We read and are consuming information for hours and hours at a time. We read not only text but we now read pictures/emojis. We read art and film. We are constantly reading and developing new forms of reading. I think reading will advance and evolve in the future rather than decay. The digital world has served as a platform to archive printed texts. We now digitize in order to read information from the past. Reading has advanced and I don’t think it’s entirely bad that we read for the digital age.

  8. My friends and I are sitting at a restaurant for dinner. Our phones are neatly stacked in the middle of the table, one on top of another. The objective of the game: don’t touch your device. The first person to do so pays for the meal unless we can all make it to the end. Thinking back, this image quite literally describes our addiction to technology – our lives revolve around it.

    The way we consume any kind of written word has changed. This has, in turn, affected our language and the way we communicate. We love abbreviations so we speak in ways to mimic how we type, saying “LOL” and “OMG” instead of acting upon the acronym. And because we are exposed to a mass amount of information and material online, we are attracted to straightforward, direct modes of news and communication. Lengthy articles and opinion pieces are shortened into catchy headlines and little blurbs that flash across a 5 x 4 inch screen, begging for our attention. We even read our news on iPhone apps that summarize weeks of news in fewer than 140 characters.

    As a result, my generation is geared towards outlets that provide pithy, concise information. Perhaps this is why more and more students turn towards SparkNotes and Wikipedia, despite numerous warnings from our educators. Why spend days reading Jane Eyre when it takes 10 minutes to read a plot summary? Who cares about what color shirt Huck Finn was wearing in Chapter 9?

    Are we lazy? Probably. Are we dumber? No. The way we read is changing the way we learn, and now, we want information at rapid speeds. This does not mean that literary works lose their value or meaning. As a reflection of a place and time, that work still holds cultural importance that may be more valuable for some more than others. We haven’t lost the ability to sit down and read all 500+ pages of Crime and Punishment. Someone who has the passion for Russian literature can be immersed just as easily as someone absorbed in comic books. We have the capacity to focus, but it takes discipline.

    The key is in being able to differentiate between surface reading and deep reading. We skim over our Twitter feeds and scroll through our Facebook walls, but when push comes to shove, we should learn to set that aside and delve into classic literature. Rather than claiming boredom after four minutes, we have to tailor our reading habits to focus on texts longer than Instagram captions. While there is no cookie-cutter solution to our changing society, I don’t necessarily think there is a reading epidemic in the first place; instead, we just need to learn balance.

  9. Information is around us everywhere. Back then, I found myself reading countless of books. Now I spend more time picking out my device I’ll get information from such as our tablets, phones, laptops, readers, all combined with the Internet, which have ultimately replaced the book. I used reading as the process of how I gained information and adventures from my book. I now use the Internet to access knowledge and stories from. But not I don’t even read the same. I’m merely milk out the main parts, skimming here, and scanning there. I see myself packaging my books in boxes and putting them in the attic and replacing them with the shorter attention span reading that has now consumed my life.

    Is this necessarily a bad thing? In this current day and age of technological innovation, our reading methods have been innovated as well. Is it for the worse if I just Google the meaning of a book instead of reading it? Efficiency to get something done has been the motto of our time. We have shortcuts for everything. So what’s wrong with taking shortcuts for reading and gaining information? Technology is catering to our needs and giving us to choose from simple explanations of information but as well as long one for the people who desire it. But the ultimate fact is that it’s coming not from pages, but from screens. Who’s to say a screen can’t give you the same information a page can? The replacement of books with devices is very over exaggerated. Why should it matter if you’re reading something from a paperback or an aluminum frame?

    Overall, the future of reading will only get more and more advanced and will cater to our every growing shorter mental capacity to takes things in. We want information fast and efficiently and that’s what the market is going to sell. Instead of craving long explanations, we’re on Buzzfeed now reading short snippets. Books don’t sell anymore, but the newest iPhone will sell out in an hour. If you think about it, the market changes with our ways of reading. When we decided technology was the superior option to read from, books stopped selling. When tablets and smartphones start becoming superseded, the market will adapt and offer a plethora of the newest way to take in information.

  10. When going out of my college town, I no longer pack along my school books. Not only for a lighter travel or to save space, but because of the realization that I do not associate traveling for pleasure with reading. If I am to be enjoying myself, how could I sit down for hours or even half an hour to open a book and focus? Similar to my peers, enjoyment for me derives from real time social interaction rather than immovable text, which as an English major may have been written centuries ago and feel irrelevant.

    Even at this moment, my attention to typing a response is paired with a Web browser that has nearly half a dozen social media sites running. Whether it be Reddit, Twitter, or YouTube, our contemporary media has excelled at drawing our attention and bringing our eyes constantly back for more. Whether it is the latest viral video or the ubiquitous number of Twitter statuses, the ability of the media to literally and quickly change everyday to adapt to our current interest makes it impossible for users to stay away. Likewise, the access of immediate pleasure is more appealing than long focused attention. Reading your average article on Reddit may only take minutes, while reading a book may take hours and days of attention.

    Overall, reading a book is essentially work. It’s association with school makes it’s mandatoriness negatively apparent and the English canon in school presently does not create an appealing enough space which could rival merely browsing the Web.

  11. I Read People, Not Authors…

    I read Groupme, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter; I read news articles, protest demonstrations, and advocacy posters; I read product descriptions, commercials, and billboards. I read socially, politically, economically, and otherwise, but rarely do I read literarily. In short, I read people that don’t really intend to be read the way authors are read.

    Authors have an intellectual purpose to their work in a way that other people don’t. The writing of authors asks to be read. The writing of other people forces itself to be read. Reading an author is a deliberate activity. Reading people is simply apart of the modern condition.

    But who’s to say this is a bad thing? We read authors to peer into their experience with, their portrayal of, or their commentary on a historical moment – real or imagined. We read people to much the same effect. Everything we read today, from social media to advertisements, reflects the nature of our contemporary moment. Intentional or not, I can gather just as much intellectual worth from a haphazardly written 140 character tweet as I can from a 140 page novel.

    So long as I’m still thinking critically, I’m okay with reading people instead of authors.

    1. While I disagree with Chris on a surface level, I feel like this is a perfect example of why I refuse to believe the technological generation is some how inferior in regards to focus and critical thought. I love to read, and I think people should read authors, but as Chris says, critical evaluation of our culture requires a similar set of skills that reading does. Someone can read Henry James’ ‘In the Cage’ and experience nothing from it, *cough* Ryan *cough*, and someone can walk a day in a city and gain nothing from the experience. However, for another person Henry James might be an instigator for critical thought, and for a modern flaneur the city might be a place of deep self-discovery. Reading doesnt imply intellectualism, and technological interactions dont imply stupidity.

  12. Is a book still a book even if it does not look like one? I believe so. Don’t get me wrong, I love the print book. Reading, in its traditional form, was a large part of my childhood and is an easy way to connect several different generations culturally and within families. As e-readers were produced and grew in popularity, I was firm in my decision not use them. I had the physical book in my hand and didn’t want or need the hassle of trying to read an e-book late at night after I had already shut down my computer. E-books were not books and I had no reason to go out of my way to accommodate them. Then, I was in college and I reached the moment when I needed immediate access to a book that was not available in the school library. So I downloaded the Kindle app and bought my first e-book. It wasn’t as bad as I expected and I eventually bought more e-books. A new love for the e-book was born when I finally received a Kindle. It was shiny and new, and I quickly became obsessed with it. My Kindle didn’t have new book smell or the sound of crinkling paper, but it had its own type of charm. The size fit just right, it had its own smell, and the feel of the touch screen was nice. This object I had sworn to never use became an important part of my life. I read very books for pleasure during the school year for many reasons but partly because I don’t like the clutter and hassle of bringing them between home and school. The Kindle revived my love of reading for pleasure. It meant that I could easily find a book to read when I felt so inclined. I gave the e-book and the e-reader a chance to prove itself worthy of the title “book.” The outside of the book does not define what is inside, ironically bringing a new perspective to the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The future of the book may be digital in form, but we don’t love the book any less for it. E-books won’t give readers the exact same experience as the print book, but it will have its own experiences that future readers will come to love and enjoy. They will look back on their experiences with the e-book and the Kindle with as much fondness as we look back on the print book right now.

  13. If I can use some proxy language for just a second here – I just want to say that I agree with the cartoonist Peter Pontiac, whose essay from I Read Where I Am argues the validity of visual storytelling as a medium for literary reading. I’m a lifelong fan of comics, and I am glad to live in a time when comic books are getting taken more seriously as art. I think Marvel and DC’s wild, consistent success at the box office testifies at least to the popular appeal of grandiose, romantic comic storytelling. But I think that reflects of one of the great phenomena of our era, too: We’re open to seeing old mediums in new ways, in addition to exploring new mediums. You didn’t get dark, introspective superhero movies back in the day – You got what you would have expected from the comic books on which they were based. Now, visionary directors are taking these franchises and telling new, darkly romantic stories with them. Like any medium, comic storytelling has changed – but it hasn’t gone away.
    It’s different with newspaper strips, though. With print in general dying slowly, it’s hard enough to keep newspapers relevant at all. Comic content falls by the wayside, which is a shame. Popularization of the graphic novel has recently inspired a lot of exciting young comic creators to experiment with their art and storytelling; in all other respects, it’s an exciting time to be a fan of comics. But papers have to compete with other papers, and the sad reality is that there’s not much space for experimental visual-literary art in your average daily publication. Our societal obsession with venomous scandal and total news coverage impedes our ability to appreciate the kind of creativity that comic writing demands. You used to get entire pages devoted to single, fully colored strips. Nowadays, the cartoonist’s vision is confined to five or six black and white inches.
    It doesn’t help that most newspaper comics are stuck in the 1950s, in terms both of legacy and decency standards. For one, old strips are almost impossible to kill. They develop so insistent a fanbase that Peanuts and Blondie reruns end up getting printed long after the original artists are dead. It’s also, for example, utterly unacceptable to curse in a newspaper comic strip, or to deal explicitly with adult subject matter. In some papers, Doonesbury and The Boondocks got relegated to editorial sections years ago. It’s creatively stifling, but it’s a result of the fact that the easily offended elderly are basically the only people reading their morning paper anymore. I worry about losing a medium I grew up with and that matters to me.

  14. Whenever I reflect on my own personal reading habits, I always go back to where it all started: elementary school. Each year I would take the reading comprehension and fluency test. I would sit outside of my classroom with my teacher, be handed a short printed story, in which I was given a minute to see how man words I could read with accuracy, at a good speed, and with understanding. After the test, I would come back to the classroom and share my WPM (words read per minute) in hope that I beat all of my classmates. At the time, I was young and naïve, but now I am fully aware how my knowledge and skills were being tested. I was using them both to determine what the word was as well as its meaning.

    With the development of technology, how will the process of acquiring the skills necessary for reading change? Studies show that Americans are reading less, however; we are able to consume information at a faster rate due to technology. Does this mean test scores are increasing? The way we are reading has changed and this reflects on our future generations. But how will they be tested? How many words they could read on the screen per minute? Since the purpose of reading is to gather meaning as well as think critically, I personally do not think it matters whether it be in print or digital form. What is important is that we are still participating in the act of reading.

  15. I check my syllabi and other online sources to see my next reading assignments. I regard what they are and I think, hard, about actually reading them. But then the glowing screen on my phone distracts me and I think, “okay, I’ll just check this text then I’ll actually do my work.” I find every excuse not to do my assignments and then I finally am relaxed, seated and ready to do them. But then, Facebook starts calling my name and so I check to see if I’ve gotten any new notifications, then an article that seems interesting shows up in my feed, so of course, I open it. Facebook and technology has figured me out, they know exactly what I may be interested in and now I have spent hours reading Facebook articles and thus, I’ve become too tired to do the readings I was meant to do (I should really delete the cookies on my computer). But hey, at least there’s Sparknotes! So then I read over the Sparknotes, just so I’m prepared for class, then I tell myself I will read the book…eventually (but I usually don’t).

    So no, I don’t read the same. Especially because I don’t really have to, simply because there are so many other sources that can give me a quick summary of exactly what I needed to know for my classes. But, that doesn’t mean that I have stopped reading entirely. During the summer, I find myself wandering in a bookstore and choosing books that I never got around to reading, or books that just seem of interest, and I sit and actually make the time to read it. The difference is that I chose the book.

    I just can’t read a book that I am forced to read. It takes the joy of reading away and I read for my pleasure. I read to escape reality and to become someone different when I no longer feel like being myself, but I can’t do that if the book wasn’t my choice.

    I haven’t lost my ability or desire to read, it’s just my incentives for reading are different. It’s all about passion and desire, that’s what affects my reading habits. But to be honest, I’ve always been this way. The difference is that now I have social media, such as Facebook, to simplify ways of distraction, instead of binge watching TV shows on Netflix, and in my opinion this is better because at least I’m still reading, regardless of the fact that they’re just silly, unliterary articles. At least I’m interested in them.

  16. I used to love reading, and I did it all the time. Around fourth through seventh grade, so about ages nine to twelve, I really grew a passion for the novel. I remember I would have two to three books going at a time and as I’d climb into bed, I’d have to make the tough decision of which to dive into (Although I certainly read during the day as well.) Now, on the brink of my 23rd birthday and college graduation, I can’t remember the last time I read a book for pleasure. I’ve often said that “I don’t care what anyone says,” Harry Potter was the most stimulating literature I’ve ever experienced and I’ve never encountered another author who made me forego eating and every other natural inclination to continue to the next chapter. (I realize how humiliatingly juvenile that sounds so I’ll say it’s semi-joke, but either way it has an important degree of truth to it.) It’s not that I can’t acknowledge and appreciate the intellect and creativity of good writers anymore, but no matter what, reading always seems like a chore. I’d elect to do almost anything else instead and if I do read I am constantly aware of how much time is passing and how much (little) progress I’ve made.

    I think a big part of why I can’t find the time or interest to read books is that I read so much elsewhere now. Aside from all the assignments I half-read for school, I spend several hours of every day reading on my phone, mostly on group messages. I currently have 34 Groupme messaging groups, about 6 to 7 of which are active on a daily basis. Some are practical, but the most active and entertaining groups are with my best friends from high school, now spread across the country, and my best friends here in college. These conversations are ongoing and though often hilarious and/or vulgar, frequently consist of impressively articulated, highly reflective material. (We joke about how we should someday publish the aggregate or portions of these in some contemporary literary format… Stay tuned…) I also regularly peruse the textual snippets of other popular media platforms, and will even read an intriguing online article from time to time. But as little book reading that I still do, I do not by any means think that the art is approaching obsolescence. The paperbound breed may soon only be collectors’ items, but the book as a form will endure. For nothing else allows one to reacquaint with language quite like the novel. Books, while perhaps feeling like an arduous departure from our typical multi-platform routine, offer a unique sense of gratification that can only come from the long-term development of a plot. And in order to have the facilities to make contributions of substance to Groupme or receive enough likes/up-votes on your platform of choice, you’ll have to keep those language and wordplay skills up to par. Sure you can learn new words and phrases from articles, but you can rarely identify and appreciate literary style outside of books.

    If anything, books may have to become more efficient. One of the most frustrating tasks is deciphering a complicated sentence or paragraph, only to realize that it could have been stated much more simply without losing any of its value. I sometimes get the sense that an author formulates their rhetoric in order to best showcase his or her intelligence (hopefully subconsciously). Works like these too often serve to marginalize the reader (and maybe that’s the intent). But in a universe where so much satisfactory information is served to us with a spoon, excessive convolution isn’t going to fly. As more and more people are signing on, becoming part of the digital meta-discussion, the books that will gain and retain popularity are those that present novel information in a stimulating, yet accessible manner.

  17. Whenever I open my laptop, I’m greeted by a familiar scene—an opened window filled to the brim with tabs. These colorful tabs constantly decorate the top of my screen consisting of information just waiting to be consumed. To be honest, I never gave my tab-hoarding a second thought until a friend would look over my shoulder and point it out. I haven’t the heart to show them the three other windows minimized with twice as many tabs apiece…
    Information HAS become a consumer product and it is affecting our reading habits. We seek information that is quick and easily accessible—types of information pervading with the help of the Internet. We are constantly bombarded with informational content with the intention of catching our eyes. The problem is that we don’t want nor can we handle all the information given to us. As a result, we are forced to be selective in what we consume. The abundance of information vying for our attention is perpetuating a “skimming” behavior. With so much information, we need quick ways to filter the “good” information from the “bad.” We practice this behavior every day because there are so many ways the outside world can reach us at any given moment, and now it is reaching us at a much more personal level. Now the intimate joy of reading is affected. Any medium with a screen as a method of reading should be cause for concern because other information and temptation have a way of sneaking its way towards us through a digital path. Our other option of physical books is affected by electronic mediums around us. As a result, we are unable to be alone. As long as we continue to keep up and embrace technology and no regulations are in place to control outside information, we are forced to deal with consequences such as “skimming.”
    Our information-heavy culture was inevitable with today’s technological advancements. Technology is growing rapidly with easier access to more information, and we may need to adapt. Just as technology changed our attention behavior, technology may have to be the solution to control this information overload. Information will not stop competing for our attention. Because information targeting has become more personal, we are now responsible in controlling what comes in and we will need technological help to do so.

  18. As we incorporate new forms of media technology in our communication, education, and recreation, traditional forms of reading have begun to take a backseat in our lives. Has the purpose of traditional reading failed to meet our changing needs or is it that technology provides a superior means of reading? In my experience, I am a bit ashamed to admit that I have not read a book or novel for my own recreation since at least middle school. My reason? Other forms of entertainment provided more entertainment in shorter times. I could easily spend my night online chatting with friends, reading social media, playing video games, and reading online articles as opposed to a single novel. The concept of instant gratification became more prevalent as I progressed through my academic career, and books began to seem like a chore. I would only read books for classes, but the benefit of these books never disappeared. When I did read novels for English classes, I thoroughly enjoyed them and was glad that my class had assigned them. Unfortunately, I would have to take the time to read a book to see how wonderful it was. In regards to our literary trends, I believe that the future of reading will no longer be able to show students that traditional books have something special to offer. Instead, we may only see that books are an inferior means of what technology has to offer. We will continue to invest our time in developing technologies in a positive feedback loop. Presently, we spend most of our reading time scanning for information. We look at peers’ posts for new information on their lives. We check our social media groups to communicate with organizations and other peer groups. We scan the popular posts of Reddit and Buzzfeed for the funny joke of the day, interesting facts about pugs, and world news. We live in a world where our time is goal-driven, and in our eyes, books seem to be the scenic route to our goal. Yes, they are nice, but the destination is now our priority. I believe that the future of reading will be shaped by our goal-driven tendencies, and that we will continue to invent new technology to find the information we want in a more efficient manner.

  19. Before the internet, instantaneous information access only existed verbally and audibly. People had to take their time to process text, and deep reading was the only option. Now, the average person surfs the web with multiple tabs open at one time, jumping from one page to the next. While it may appear that this person is not paying attention to anything, in fact, much information is being processed, and many words are being read. I cannot count the number of texts I read in one day, because I simply read them and abandon all thought of them. The main difference is perhaps the reflective process that falls to the wayside in today’s world.
    Information flows through the brain and is processed, but rarely analyzed. This analysis is the major benefit of close reading. By reflecting on what one has just read, one is applying ideas from literature to one’s life, altering one’s viewpoint ever so slightly–not to mention vocabulary. Since close reading forces us to uncover symbolism and themes or approach the work from a different angle, we begin to subconsciously develop this practice in our every day lives. This turns us into all around more thoughtful people, and this is why I strongly believe in the importance of close reading. It has nothing to do with the loss of the classics or a nostalgia for antiquity. I do not think people should be forced to read simply to keep the past alive. We need deeper forms of reading so that we remember how to think.
    It is interesting and slightly disturbing to imagine the world generations from now when people may have grown up without knowing the concept of textual analysis, for this is the basis of any type of analysis. Information will be just that–information. People will only know brevity and efficiency. They may be just as intelligent, even more so, but so much of the meaning in everyday interactions and events will be lost.
    I think that close reading and novels should always be assigned at some point in a child’s education, along with reflective assignments. Yes, forcing people to read may cause some of them to hate it, but it does not matter if they hate it. The most important benefit that is crucial to maintain is the ability to discern significance. This ability will help future generations navigate the unfathomable downpour of information they will be surrounded with by becoming aware of how they relate to this high-speed world around them. They will know how storylines unfold and how characters develop, which will help them make logical life choices and understand their own development. They will have imaginations to create new ideas, and the capacity to interpret the potential of these ideas.
    Deep reading is fading and as technology improves it will become more and more obsolete, but institutions should not allow it to cease to exist. It trains us to think, and a world without thinkers is not an advanced one.

  20. I have had conversations over text messaging with people who claim “not to read.” Think of the irony of that sentence. People are constantly reading. People can’t look up from their phones long enough to cross the street safely. There is a danger with technology, but “not reading” is not one of them. Reading is not becoming obsolete, but it is certainly changing.

    I can’t pretend to know whether or not this is a good thing. I can’t pretend not to be scared. It’s amazing and incredibly beneficial that with the rise of technology, information is becoming more and more accessible. As higher education is being commodified and a luxury that seems like it can only exist for the upper class, it’s truly a blessing that anyone with access to a public computer can learn college-level subjects from the Internet. It’s terrifying that information that once took weeks to teach is compressed into just minutes. It’s terrifying that more and more people pick SparkNotes over a book. And it’s too early to know if this new form of technology is more of a blessing or more of a curse.

    However, I do know that the worst thing to be is resistent to change. Reading is changing, and if literature doesn’t change it will certainly be lost. If old books don’t somehow become new, they will die. What was interesting to past generations can’t be relevant to future generations, and if the people who are so resistent to change stand their ground because they are afraid of losing sacred traditions, they are certainly being counterproductive.

    It’s probably entirely pointless to argue over the “good” and “bad” of the changes in reading. Reading will always happen. There will always be street signs, advertisements, written or typed messages. We will not lose language and we will not lose knowledge. Instead of being afraid, we must face the changes head-on. We must decide what is important to preserve, and how to preserve it in the changing world of reading. The Hebrew Bible was once written on a scroll, and in fact still is. But I guarantee that people today are reading it in one form or another, and probably on a screen.

  21. What I am doing dictates my level of reading. If I am in an environment with the Internet I am eight out of ten times more likely to watch videos online then read. And if I read, the reading I do, if not for school, includes social sources like Facebook and Reddit or from News sites like Vice News or the BBC. This type of skimming pattern of shallow reading is emblematic of the new media environment of the 21st century of endless information where skimming is required for fluid intelligence and is the only way one can navigate through all the accessible information available and glean useful information out of the fray.

    However if I am in an environment where the Internet is limited, such as backpacking or on an airplane, I still read in a traditional deep way. This deep reading is enjoyable and I love examining an Economist magazine through a six-hour flight. I feel like I understand more of the story this way without the constant bombardment of the Internet with the constant urge to check in on my social media sites.

    Yet reading without the Internet also has its flaws. In an Internet free environment I am handicapped from t the ability to search for something I do not understand in the text. The ability to look something up on Google for a quick definition is of great value for cognition and had never been more readily available then with the Internet. Therefore, for me it is essential to find a balance between the two. I should read a traditional book while my laptop is nearby by to give me the ability to search for something but also not distract me when I am attempting to deeply read a piece of literature

  22. Reading, in many ways has become not enough for me. I read novels if I can’t get the story in them in another way, but the idea of sitting down and reading is unappealing. But I still read, and I probably read more now than ever before in my life. The way that I read mainly, is either through websites or video games. Websites are the most similar to traditional forms of reading, but without the benefit, in most cases, of scrutiny and editing. For most young people today, most of their reading comes from the internet, and I would imagine almost all of the reading they choose to do is online. There are benefits; this is a great way to get viewpoints from different people, all over the world. However, the internet is not exactly the best source of quality writing materials. There’s a reason that, at least anecdotally, people do not write very well anymore.
    The other way I read is through gaming. Video games are constantly made out to be the enemy of the reader, but games have a considerable amount of writing in them. Baldur’s Gate 2 has over one million words in it, about the same length as the bible. The writing in games is can be deep and meaningful, complex and moving, but they are rarely thought of as masterpieces of literature. To be fair, that’s because most of them aren’t, but also most people don’t look for value in them.
    Teaching kids to read is hard because they don’t want to do it, so maybe the answer isn’t trying to get people to read something meaningful they don’t want to read. The answer instead is to teach people to find the meaning in the things they already enjoy, and promote meaning in new forms of media alongside literature.
    That’s not to say there’s nothing special about reading. To me, reading is a very personal activity. Reading is usually done alone, and a large part of my childhood was spent hidden away, reading a book. Solitude is useful and calming, and solitude can be found easily in a book. Solitude is more valuable now than ever, in our always on culture, when a million people are trying at all times to convince you to read or watch or listen to whatever they have to say. Solitude is about finding out what you have to say, and books have always had a strange ability to bring out one’s own opinion while reading the words of somebody else.
    Culture is rebellion, and most cultural movements have been rebellions against whatever the predominant culture is at the time. Hopefully, this means that in our future is a time when quiet and thought and solitude is more loved and respected, but until then we don’t have to be living in the lull between swells. We can choose to get more out of our society, to think and feel and share in the culture of sharing. We can choose to post meaning, not distraction.
    I posted this before but it got posted through my regular wordpress account so hopefully this one is right

  23. When looking at reading in its present form, as an activity and necessity to consume knowledge both new and classic, it is clear that it is becoming significantly more difficult to utilize the common methods to get through a literary work. Over the course of this quarter, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my habits as a reader and how they have changed dramatically as my college career has developed. Prior to taking literature courses at my community college nearly three years ago, I would consume books one after another because I enjoyed any kind of story I could spend my time with. The force behind this motivation was completely by myself alone as I never really experienced being read to when I was young. I simply remember wanting to experience a different reality, so I did on my own. Looking at myself now as a reader I no longer have the drive to read like I used to, possibly due to the fact that I have not had full interest in a work that I was obligated to read and finish by a deadline. Now that I have completed four full years of college work, both English and Film theory courses that have a lot of reading respectively, I have a much harder time recalling anything besides the smaller pieces of information that are necessary to write papers about them. I no longer feel that I grow as a reader in terms of the information that I consume. If there is anything that I can attribute to this, it would be my increase in other media consumption, including films and television shows among many other things. Though these are vital to my second major, one of my greatest passions, it has changed me in a significantly negative way concerning my first passion ever: reading.
    When looking at the futures of reading, it is very hard to tell where we will be exactly. I do believe that eventually there will be a complete turn toward technology, where archiving is going to be much more prominent and the common form of reading will be through screens and paper books may become obsolete. In terms of archiving, I do feel that this will be beneficial to save all forms of texts that are important to all cultures, regardless of the lack of common connections to the present. My only hope is that reading can still be something to value and a skill that can be reestablished even with a shift from page to screen.

  24. Stephen Da Costa Guimarais
    In terms of reading being a hobby, it was initially an escape for my mind to wander from reality. That is not to say I find classical text or educational texts boring, but there has always been for me a sort of dissatisfaction with the present. Usually when a book thoroughly immerses me in its story, the plot and the textual universe usually lay outside the parameters of reality. Perhaps this is why I find myself inatiably consuming anime and playing video games because I have a desire to find a remedy for my own despairs. I believe this has also affected my perception and outlook toward my education and major selection. Within my double majors of Film and English, reading infests and dominates my interary day to day. Now, I’d like to say that my obsession with entertainment would warrant a ridiculous aptitude as I study to pursue these areas. However, the reality is that the presentation of the knowledge is no more intriguing to me than learning trigonometry or some unbearably straining subject. As I have gone through college, I have attained a greater degree of self reflection, and with this I have concluded that my data retention is absolutely abysmal. Aside from broader conceptual and thematic knowledge, the information that my classes subject me to seems to fade from my mind once the quarter is past. Like, I seriously have trouble recalling what I learned last quarter, but I can clearly recall the worlds and narratives of my favorite stories from books and movies. In the midst of the ultra rapid pace that society has developed with technological advancement, I believe information is lost vastly more frequently than ever before due to the sheer volume of it. In film, there are so many movies that are fun but forgettable because of how they present themselves to the spectator. Inversely, a film can also be extremely memorable because of this paradigm. With this in mind, it is possible for information to be captivating, but it would require enormous effort that people don’t necessarily think is feasible. Unfortunately, our hyperactive lifestyles leave little time for reading because in our contemporary universe, information has become exponentially more abundant, but also condensed by social media and the internet. I believe that the future of reading is impossible to predict, because it is constantly evolving as an extension of the human conscience. Reading is not in danger, but traditionalists will proabably be unhappy that its importance and purpose have both digressed.

  25. Lists of things to read, a deadline looming overhead, and the one piece of literature that I actually want to read is sitting on my dresser: bookmark three-quarters of the way in. It’s free time that should be devoted to being productive and knocking out the list of literature chores, but then there’s the one book I’m invested in, the one book that I chose. Assigned readings are what caused a plummeting in my interest for reading; it was the realization that I could chose my own literature (and the fact that if I ended up not liking it I could put it down guilt free and only blame myself for having picked up the book in the first place) that lifted me from my slump. I chalk it up to my stubbornness.
    But what if that stubbornness is something that a great deal of people, younger generations still to come, struggle with? The fact that you’re being told what to read and the only options are how you choose to read really put a damper on how someone perceives that work already – as work. Though this work is what trains people how to read actively, this type of reading becomes discouraging to recreational reading. No longer is it “who can understand the text better,” but now is “who can read other sources to gather what’s going on in this text better.” I think that’s the stubborn person finding a way to make the reading their own. Sugar coated in a context of laziness, people put more effort into finding other people’s writing on a work because that’s an option they choose; rather than reading or not reading, someone can pick to read another’s interpretation and another’s synopsis of the work, piece those together and then make sense of the work.
    I think the future of reading will either take the path of absorbing a consensus of other people’s opinions to make sense of the work, or being given a list of works within the teacher’s own limits to read from. I genuinely think that giving people the choice is what allows enough freedom to enjoy the reading.

  26. If I’m honest with myself, I sometimes think the idea of reading a book is better than actually reading it. One of my favorite pastimes is perusing bookstores: reading the backs of books, flipping through the pages, sitting with the prospect of diving into a novel. But after spending two hours at a second-hand bookstore and walking away with eleven new books, those books then sit unopened on my shelves for months on end. I consistently blame the problem of those books gathering dust on the excessive amount of schoolwork I have. I can’t possibly read for pleasure when I have thirteen novels to read in one quarter, not to mention the numerous essays, projects, and tests. But I look back at my time in high school: in my 9th grade English class, Mrs. Hansen chose to read us an extra book throughout the year for ten minutes at the end of each class. She decided that one of the joys in life that was quickly taken away from us after childhood was the joy of being read to, so we made it slowly through The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Amidst the assignments and class projects, we found the time to read just for reading’s sake.

    I don’t think the future of reading is limited to Facebook statuses, women’s magazines, or brief news articles. I believe that we are still pleasure readers. Children are given books before they are told to set up an email account or check Facebook for updates on high school friends. Children still have imaginations, and while they may live in a world that is now controlled by technology, these imaginations still find an outlet in reading novels. The escapism that people discover in novels will always be sought after, and the smell of an old book will still feel comforting to many. We are readers at heart, and we do it because we can, not because we are told to. In our world of constantly feeling the need to be dialed into technology, reading for pleasure presents an escape from obligation where there is a refreshing novelty that surrounds enjoying a good book. Twitter characters may capture our brief attention, but books will grasp hold of our imagination and our spirit.

  27. Their logical fallacy is a
    p s
    p l
    e o
    r p
    y e.

    On this mountain that makes up our human existence, reading is not falling off the edge of the cliff.

    Sure, some rocks have fallen. Some pieces have moved and changed and the mountain may not look the same as it always has. But that’s the way the world works. Everything is constantly changing and we would be foolish to expect otherwise.

    Because obviously if we are using technology more and reading novels less and digital media is up and coming and maybe sometimes I skim a bit too much and I don’t read everything I’m supposed to for class because maybe just maybe the world is too full of things do and places to be and people to see. Yes, that’s right. It must be true that reading is done. That twenty-five years of electronics could dismantle an entire fundamental aspect of human existence and civilization.

    Or maybe, people are being a bit dramatic.

    So maybe I’m wired in. Maybe I can’t go an hour without feeling the pull of my cell phone and the temptation of binge inducing television. But that’s on me. It is my choice and my decision to exist in the manner that I do. If I wanted to I still think I could bid it all adieu.

    Even if my brain has changed…. Even if I’m not as quick and as attentive as I used to be. I don’t think that signals the end. The flashing of my screen against my pupils does not ensure the same fate for my children. Yet somehow I still think its clear to see that it doesn’t even have to be this way for me.

    I remember when I was a little girl I used to go to the public library all the time. I used to check out the limit number of books every time I would leave. I would go home and read multiple books in one day. I would make a fort under my desk or open up my pop-up tent in my room and I would curl up with a book. I flipped through the pages without even realizing it, until suddenly I was done and it was on to the next one.

    Yes, I miss this. No, I no longer read one or two or three or four or ten books in a week. But I’m not seven or eight or nine or thirteen anymore. Life doesn’t stop for me to indulge myself.

    But every once in a while, I get a day. I get a day where everything else fades away. Just like I did a few months past, where I laid outside on my front lawn and I read. I read and I read and I didn’t give a damn that the world was happening all around me. I didn’t care that the mailman came to deliver the mail as I lay on the lawn with tears dripping into the pages in my hands. What a funny sight it must have been to see….

    And one day, when I don’t exist, and you don’t exist and our great-great grandchildren don’t exist, the mountain will still be there. People will still be reading on it. And if it isn’t…

    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Whatever will be will be. All we can do is try not to fall. C’est la vie.

  28. Scrolling through one of my many social media accounts I saw a post that struck a cord. It was on a page dedicated to selling items to college students and the post read: “Don’t trust your roommates? Don’t trust the people who come into your room? Don’t trust anyone? We’ve got the answer! We present the ‘Nobody Knows Novel,’ a hollow book with a secret storage space!” There were many things that I couldn’t wrap my head around; initially it was the picture of the poorly cut out book with a watch hidden in it, then the hideously ironic name of the product, and the then the thought of destroying the product that college students spend the most on and then marketing them back to the university students.
    I understand that the Nobody Knows Novel is not a unique product, fake leather bound books have been sold to even faker people for years. However, I couldnt help but think of my own books—is there a single book I would destroy? If we are living in the death of reading, are we living in the book itself? The e-book is a growing product because of its functionality and cost, but I don’t think it is truly sustainable. I own a copy of Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake that has been past around between my family since the 50’s. It is held together with bits Duct tape and the original covers have been lost, but every time I return to it and wander through the halls of Gormenghast I cannot help but think of the people who have read it before me. It is everything from the brown of the paper to the smell of the air as each page is turned that inspires me to read on. The technological age will change the way future generations read, but it will never entirely overthrow the material novel.
    As children we learn how to experience reading through a variety of senses, we need to interact with our stories, feel the pages, and turn them sideways to explore the pictures in a new way. While technology has expanded upon that concept, it fixed something that did not need replacing. While we may use our novels for hiding places for untrustworthy roommates, we will also use them as time capsules for our future generations, and that is something that will not be lost. Reading isn’t dead it’s resting.

  29. Let’s be really honest about reading and technology. Why? I suppose, because anything else is a waste of time, and honesty is easier than faking it.
    It’s 10:49 P.M. Tuesday, May 26, 2015. I believe this assignment was due last Friday, but I had a lot of stuff to do last Friday: I had two stories due for the Santa Barbara Independent, I needed to rest up for my band’s show down in Palos Verdes the following day, it was my best friend’s birthday dinner downtown, and after that I had to rehearse with my guitarist and bassist after they got off work from Trader Joes at 10 P.M. I am a graduating senior; my classes sometimes come in a close forth to securing my financial future as a writer, staying close with friends, and following my dreams of becoming a musician. I knew I would still turn the assignment in, express my critical thoughts thoroughly, and that any demerit for the late delivery would not affect the overall outcome of my destiny, thus I feel like I have spent my time wisely. And isn’t how we spend our finite time one the hardest questions to answer in life? And if I truly feel I have spent it wisely, well then there is some wisdom in those actions.
    My point is that humans have a choice of how they want to spend their life and it just so happens that reading takes a lot of time and technology speeds up time. When I’m confronted with any task I want to do high quality work, but I also want it completed rapidly. When gathering and understanding information, I feel that as long as my thoughts on the subject translate into subconscious actions then I have made real progress for myself. For instance, I did not read 1984 for my “Privacy and Technology” class. But I did find myself consumed with thoughts and images of Big Brother constructed from closely analyzing parts of the text with my professor in lecture. After that class, I became better aware of how I represented myself through social media. Even for this assignment, it only took me five minutes to see that the assignment called for a completely subjective interpretation of how I see the death of reading. So why would I need to read every single author’s essay? The thoughts I gain from my education translate into awareness and confidence in my view of the world, which is always redefining itself with new knowledge and although my knowledge could be more comprehensive I only have so much time in the day. Many successful billionaires advocate for skimming a new self-help or success book for 10-30 minutes each day because all you really need is in the leads to chapters and the front and back covers to understand the message. I mostly scan things unless it’s a work of fiction that suits my personality like “On the Road.” And I don’t think that I’m not a successful person because my reading habits are poor; I still have learned a great amount from my reading. I have a 3.06 GPA and I am on my way to becoming a professional writer and musician.
    I like to read, very slowly, maybe a chapter a night, or a week even. That’s all my attention can handle right now unless I turn the reading into a session, in which I turn my phone off and set myself up in solitary comfortable chair with snacks and water. That type of reading is fun and relaxing. Lately I have wanted to read more and invest in the parts of my education that truly interest me. Right now I’m reading “The Autobiography of a Yogi,” I am on page 116 after a month or so. I think yoga is really cool. I also want to read Vonnegut this summer. Maybe I will read more after I finish school, I often think of this quote when it comes to institutionalized work, “obligation is the mother of deformity,” maybe my nature just doesn’t like to told to read, it has to want to read.

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