This past Sunday, the New York Times ran this article about the decline of book reading. Specifically, the article asked if web surfing and blog involvement (or a Mudcat habit) represent "a new kind or reading," which is different from reading books, but not inherently undesirable. Some argue that the web is replacing books, in a manner that's contributing to short attention spans and lack of interest in detail and context.
I have two teenagers and I see this in my oldest, a son who's just turned 18. He's a bright kid, about to start at a fine University, but it's hard to get him to read a book for pleasure. I wonder if he just doesn't have the attention span after years of video games and web browsing. He has what I gather is a fairly regular routine of checking favored websites each day, usually reading film news and criticism, and picking up some of the latest world news. He's interested enough in world affairs to declare himself an ardent Obama supporter, but he doesn't favor books. On a recent family vacation, when he was cut off from internet access, he absorbed the novel The Kite Runner, reading it pretty nonstop during downtime, and finishing it in two or three days. I hoped he'd pick up another book when we got home, but it was back to the Web.
I'm struck by the young man quoted in the article who says books "go through a lot of details that aren't really needed. Online just gives you what you need, nothing more or less." Not really needed? How about context--encompassing history, depth, shades of grey? And that says nothing about fiction. Has this kid never learned the pleasure of seeing a story unfold in depth, while immersing oneself in characterization and setting?
Or am I becoming more of a fogie by the second?