Saturday, September 04, 2010
The Future of Reading
I've been thinking a lot about the future of reading in the digital age. And I'd like to toss a few ideas out to you.
Fact: the up-and-coming generations have been TRAINED (by Sesame Street, et al) to have short attention spans.
For years we've been teaching that it's important to give the reader "white space." We writers now eschew block paragraphs of description, sermons in stories, any time when someone is sitting and ruminating (for the most part). We're all about action and movement.
The other day I found an online satirical piece called "America Shudders at Large Block of Uninterrupted Text." We are becoming USED to having links in our reading material. (Definition: a link is an internet address that will take you from your book to the web to view whatever material exists at the targeted site).
Is it possible that a today's simple stories will make readers in five years shudder the way page-long paragraphs in 100-year-old books make us shudder today? Oh, we'll read them, but we know it's going to force us to focus . . . and some of us won't want to make the effort.
I really don't think it's going to be too burdensome for writers to come up with linkable stories. For instance, my WIP is three stories in one, and you could read them out of order if you wanted to--and your brain would make the adjustment.
Plus, when I talk about the Silver Meteor train, it'd be simple to insert a web link to a photo of said train, or a map of its route. EVEN IF THESE THINGS WERE ENTIRELY FICTIONAL, the author could put up web pages where these "visual aids" would be available. Ditto for character photos, bios, etc.
Think of your fave TV shows like 24, Rubicon, etc. They have websites with games, interactive quizzes, character profiles, deleted scenes, etc.
Why couldn't we do that for digital books? When reading, you wouldn't HAVE to click on the link, but you could go back and check things out at your leisure. (I know, I know--when engrossed in a story, we don't always like to break the fictive dream.)
I think--I predict--that readers are going to be expecting these things in about five years, maybe less. With books going digital, it wouldn't take much to insert these links. In fact, if I can find the time I may start working on some of my OP digital books now. Just to see what happens. :-)
So my question is this: if you were reading a digital book (an electronic version), how would you feel about having some links inserted?
Would you think: 1) Wow, I can look up things she's writing about!
2) These things are distracting and a pain in the neck
And if you wanted to look things up, do you think you would do it immediately or later, at a chapter break or even at the end of the story? (I know--it probably depends upon the pace of the story where the link was found. But generally, what do you think?)