Last year I was researching the development of our reading habits when I came across the article “Why We Don’t Read, Revisited” by Caleb Crain, published in The New Yorker in 2018. I was reminded of it when I read the first chapter of Adam Hammond’s Literature in the Digital Age. Hammond explores Nicholas Carr’s argument that literary reading is threatened in the digital age, and we are losing the ability to concentrate. Carr, author of “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, believes one reason for that is the emergence of hyper reading or “skimming”, a form of reading which allows us to alternate between text forms, skip over passages and filter out sentences.
Crain analysed the data of the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey and examined reasons for the trend that Americans are reading less. Interestingly, one of the results was that the average reading time did not drop because readers are reading less but because the American population is composed of fewer readers in general. According to Crain, television acts as the main cause for people to read less, while Carr is convinced digital media is what brings printed texts to their knees.
In my opinion, the question of how to get people to read instead of binge-watch TV shows on Netflix or scroll through social media is even more essential. Instead of condemning new forms of reading like hyper reading, we could start to acknowledge its existence. We are simply not able to navigate through “information-intensive environments” if we close read every advertisement or online article we come across (Hammond 20). After all this hyper reading, literary reading might even be seen as a welcome change again.
A great way to promote literary reading might be the annual reading challenge on Goodreads, the social media platform. The platform allows users to review, discuss, join groups, and browse for new reading material. So far, 2.337.249 people have joined this year’s challenge. The digital world doesn’t necessarily kill literary reading but can help to promote it.