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Old 02-04-2010, 07:02 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Re: Writing in the Digital Age (Susan Orlean & Kurt Andersen)

[Continued from]

(~41:00) Kurt says he finds it easier to stop reading something when looking at it on screen as opposed to in print. I have to say, while I sort of know the feeling, I also wonder if this can't be explained simply by observing that in the former case, it's much easier to get something else to read. When you're holding a hunk of paper, you probably have to get up from your bed or chair, walk over to a shelf or into the next room or even downstairs or out to the library. In other words, anything less than fairly engaging may be judged merely in terms of (1) normal human laziness and (2) the equally normal sense of "I know there is greener grass on the other side of that fence," and the only question is, "How high is the fence?"

That said, a related phenomenon is also undoubtedly at play here: despite the advances in technology, it is still more pleasant to read a sufficiently long piece in a book or magazine than it is to look at it on a screen.

Some of this is a matter of taste. When Susan goes on to say that she reads the NYT online only due to the lack of available options, I will only say that I do have the choice -- the paper is in fact right at hand where I'm at right now -- and I prefer to read it online. I don't have a comprehensive explanation, but here are two of the pieces: First, there's nothing like being able to look something up with a right-click, and second, if a story interests me, I like the chance to be able to follow related links right away, whether at the NYT's suggestion or due to my own Googling.

(~43:30) I don't share Susan's self-described habit of not finishing newspaper stories that I like when I'm reading on screen. I would also say that when I read the print edition regularly, I would not bother following the jump unless I really liked a story. (Or had nothing else to read.)

(~54:30) The discussion about being distracted that has been going on for the past few minutes has started to make these two seem simultaneously like geezers and tweens. (Comically, it was that old device from the horse and buggy days -- a ringing telephone -- that caused the biggest disruption.) I dunno -- I grant that it can be easy to fritter away time when you have the Internet at hand, but I sure don't remember any dearth of frittering in my life before connectivity came along. As Susan illustrates by describing seeing a friend in a restaurant typing away furiously with nothing but a cold cup of coffee nearby, sometimes one gets into the zone, and more often, one does not, or at least, one has to work to stay there, and in order to do so, it helps to remove oneself from outside attention-grabbers. This is not anything New.

(~60:00) I strongly agree with Susan's lament about there being no market for short books, or perhaps more accurately, no willingness on the part of publishers to give this form a shot. I have long shared this sadness, and wished that people would arrive at the compromise of not hesitating to put out books that contained two to five properly-sized books, as it were. I have a few books like that, from back in the days when publishers would gather up a suddenly more respectable pulp writer's previous paperbacks into one hardcover, and I love them. And also, of course and again: McPhee. There aren't many books that I like better than Giving Good Weight.

Thanks again to Susan and Kurt for a delightful conversation, and thanks to you for reading this. (Even if all you were looking to do was quote-mine. )

Last edited by bjkeefe; 02-05-2010 at 01:11 AM.. Reason: minor wordsmithing, of course, and then later, a misspelling
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