So I am one of the many people, especially people <25 years old, that has more or less stopped reading books. I don’t remember the last book I successfully read. I tried to read Moneyball recently, only to stop ~30 pages in. I opted out of reading the Steve Jobs biography, assuming I had already heard all of the juicy stuff on Facebook and face to face (gasp!) conversations with friends.
This behavior does not sit well with me. I have mixed feelings about it. Reading blogs and Twitter updates, and skimming articles (titles + anything in bold), is my new M.O. While I do this, I feel guilty every time I notice the barely touched Moneyball book sitting in my messenger bag. I keep it there for the same reason I set my alarm for 6am every day - maybe one day I’ll follow through.
I am intentionally not placing anything in this post in bold or in headings in some ill-conceived protest of my own behavior.
So I thought about it some more today. Every thought about this has been a fleeting <10 second feeling before. But finally I am thinking with a bit more depth about it.
I was reading this blog post on how IT has changed in the past 40 years (http://raganwald.posterous.com/i-have-a-bad-feeling-about-this). I confess; I still haven’t finished it. But yet I still recommend it. Anyway - I digress.
So when I was reading it, I felt like I was learning. I felt like it was provoking thoughts in me. For example, the author writes “Microprocessors disrupted mainframes.” That got me thinking about the cycles of innovation, lessons to be learned from history, etc. Maybe I can glean my next business idea by learning from the mistakes and triumphs of the past (after all, isn’t Facebook just the new AOL?).
And so I thought, am I learning while reading this blog post? And the answer was, yes - yes of course. Now, was it the same type of engrossed, and perhaps deeply intellectual learning I get from investing myself in reading a book with 100 pages of material? Probably not. But I learned something new, and the words made me think a lot. And arguably if I can get through 10 posts that make me learn more than what I would get out of spending that time reading 10 pages of a book, so be it.
Maybe I am being defensive. I know there is something lost as reading books wanes in popularity. Long form content (ironic that this is what tech people view blogging as nowadays), or books, offers us something unique that blog posts and skimming headlines will never do for us.
But I wonder if this is just another change of the times situation. People used to go to the theater and watch plays. Then they stopped; the printing press and other things made mass literature popular. Entertainment and education shifted media (this is not entirely correct as a historical transition, I know). But maybe blogs and skimming articles is just the new way we consume content.
And I think that’s OK. Not without loss, but OK.