APRIL 28, 2012 11:58AM

Reading Is Not Dead! (Though, Unfortunately, Redefined)

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Just a decorously quick note: Reading is far from dead in contemporary (spring of 2012) US culture. It's just been warped into "scanning for content," of which there is an ever-increasing burden.

For a personal example, it may be taking me over a month to re-read Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End, a well-written novel of reasonable length; but one of the reasons it's taking me so long is that I've had to scan for content such things as the instructions to my relatively new clock-radio-iPod-player to find out how the frack to turn off the g*ddamn alarm, plus sections of the short-form of the owner's manual for my new rental car to figure out the trip meter.

Shortly, I'll be reading up — so to speak on the word "reading" — on how to work the radio-DVD-player-iPod-Bluetooth ... device in the car. (This is now possible since I located the long form of the owner's manual, which wasn't in the glove box because the set of manuals is too big to fit into the glove box and leave room for anything more than, say, a pair of gloves.)

No, I suspect Americans, and especially young Americans, are doing more, in quotes "reading" than ever before. It's just not reading for pleasure or anything that could be properly called education or improvement. We're scanning for content for training in various skills, mostly trivial. (Though necessary: I really needed to turn off the g*ddamn alarm on a clock-radio-iPod device I bought to simplify listening to The Diane Rehm Show.)

It's part of what was sold to us as "lifelong learning": you will scan for content, 'cause there's more and more you just don't know how to do without looking up the instructions.  

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