“Books Are Becoming Fringe Media”

Religion / Web/Tech

Sometimes people ask my why I spend so much time speaking to groups in the Episcopal Church about our need to become a regular part of the online conversation.

It’s because fewer and fewer people are using the tools of the last century to communicate. Newspapers are on life-support. Broadcast TV is hemorrhaging money. Radio with a few notable exceptions has long since stopped being a significant part of the American experience.

And now comes this news that books are on their way out too:

“That’s not to say that books are dying. They’ll always be around, and Amazon can count on a loyal audience for Kindles for some time. Kindle owners say they’re reading more books, although they remain a small portion of the population. But notably, according to an informal survey of Kindle devotees, 59 percent of people who buy the e-readers are over 55. Meanwhile, as a NEA study pointed out two years ago, people under 25 were already doing most of their reading on the web, with only 7 minutes a day devoted to books.

Since that NEA report appeared, the shift in our attention to the web from books has intensified. Just in the past month, I’ve heard several friends — some whose careers are dedicated to writing books — say they are reading fewer of them, if they read them at all. The main culprit that they cite is the web. Whether published in ink or pixels, books are facing tough competition from updates, posts, and a blizzard of free, brief and ephemeral writings that distract eyeballs from the task of digesting 300 pages of text.”

From here.

Steve Jobs dismissed the Kindle by saying “No one reads anymore.” People reacted strongly to that charge. Looks like he was right sadly, though perhaps it’s more accurate to say that people no longer invest their time in long books.

Which means that writers and bloggers will have to learn a new medium with a new set of rules if they want to communicate to the next generation.

Which is why I do what I do. (See above…)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Carol Horton says

    how sad. I love coming across margin notations from long ago, or in another, now departed, hand — somehow, blogs will never replace that for me. The dry cleaner’s receipt, stuck in to mark a spot provokes so much more than what is on that page — or even the wine stain on a page from some almost forgotten conversation over a text. Ah, me…

  2. Yesterday I attended a presentation by a statistician and college professor on the characteristics of the “millennial generation” (which included current teens and college students). One of them was they are are “intellectually disengaged.” What I asked the speaker to expand on this, he said, “Short attention span. Want their information in very small bites and in ‘interesting’ packaging. Would rather know a little about a lot of things than a lot about anything in particular.” When I observed that this is a frightening portent for the future of our society, the speak (a GenXer) nodded in agreement.

  3. Paul Martin says

    I remember a college professor complaining about a mentality he saw in his students. They expected to be entertained. They compared his performance to the entertainment medium of the day. They saw a lecture as the professor’s job, rather than an opportunity to the student engage actively with the subject matter.
    This was 1975 or thereabouts. He was complaining about television.
    Livy makes similar complaints about the decay he saw in contemporary Rome.
    I think we have to be careful about mistaking form for content. While there is certainly a lot of garbage on the web, I am amazed at how much more effectively I can do my job with rapid access to information. I remember the hours I spend holding bound journal volumes over the photocopy machine. I searched volume indexes for relevant information because database searches were too expensive. I do not miss those days. I can come up to speed on a new topic now in a fraction of the time. And yes, I rarely consult books. By the time the information reaches a book, it is usually old and out of date.
    You are so right about meeting the younger generation in their medium of choice. I do not think a dismissive attitude toward their choices is going to get us very far. My concern is that this is going to be a challenge for the average congregation, which may still be struggling to get a web site up and running. We need more people like you to help us along.

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