Is my dream of a collaborative reading experience merely that, a dream? On the many occasions when I tried to set up a shared Subtext or Readmill reading with a friend, we always ran into endless snags, from an inability to settle on a book we both found appetizing to scheduling and pacing incompatibilities like the ones I had with Liz.
Is reading antisocial? “Another attempt to socially network books has bitten the dust. Maybe readers just want to be alone”.
As it happens, I value deep reading – and so, perhaps, do you. And so, quite obviously, do all the youngish people I see everyday on London transport reading 700-page printed books such as the Game of Thrones series, 50 Shades of Grey or the new Donna Tartt. Stuart Jeffries has written persuasively about the popularity of such doorstops, as well as complex modern TV series. This might be a culture not of attention deficit but of “a wealth of attention focused more readily on the things that warrant it”.
Maybe it’s time to start thinking of paper and screens another way: not as an old technology and its inevitable replacement, but as different and complementary interfaces, each stimulating particular modes of thinking. Maybe paper is a technology uniquely suited for imbibing novels and essays and complex narratives, just as screens are for browsing and scanning.