Expanding on Dana’s post from last week about multitasking and the responding clamor of “I can’t stand to do less than two things at once”: Is book-reading on the decline because we literally have better things to do with our time?
I basically don’t read books. I’ve finished about 10 books since getting my English degree four years ago; three of them were young-adult fantasies and two were graphic novels.
This is common. About 42 percent of college grads never read another book, supposedly. This 2004 study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that the number of American adults who claim to read books fell from 61 to 57 percent between 1992 and 2002 (actual numbers are obviously much lower).
In place of books, I get most of my words from newspaper Web sites, podcasts, vodcasts and the radio, usually while I’m doing other things. When I’m reading a book, by contrast, it’s almost impossible for me to do anything else.
This puts books at a serious disadvantage. Yes, reading a book gives you a depth of knowledge you can’t get elsewhere — but in my experience, knowledge has diminishing returns. I’m better off as a jack-of-all-info. And every minute I spend reading a book is another minute in which I’m not accomplishing two other things.
In economic terms, book-readers face rising opportunity costs.
-posted by Mike