Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Comeback of the Decade: Reading

readingStudies say you are watching more TV than ever, even as you slurp up increasing amounts of Web video. Which means you must be spending less time on something else. Like reading, perhaps?

Nope. At least not according to a new study out of the University of California, San Diego, which says reading tripled from 1980 to 2008 “because it is the overwhelmingly preferred way to receive words on the Internet”:

From Wired‘s summary:

Americans consumed 3.6 billion terabytes of information last year, averaging 11.8 hours of information consumption per day. Video and videogames constituted 55 percent of those bytes, but on average, Americans read 36 percent of the 100,500 words they consume each day, according to the San Diego study, which analyzed more than 20 data sources. The study doesn’t cover writing, but a simple glance at Facebook feeds reveals that we’re almost certainly writing more than we used to, as well.

Obligatory “to be sure” graph: To be sure, the study’s definition of “reading” is as broad as possible. So it’s not just talking about grappling with Pynchon, but many less demanding forms of “receiving words” as well. Like skimming this text. Or a text message. Or a tweet. Etc.

Also, there’s a good chance that you’re “reading” while you’re watching TV and maybe watching some Web video at the same time. The UC San Diego study allows for lots of multitasking.

Still, this isn’t bad news, right? As long as you’re reading, you’re reading. And the more you read, the better the chances we’ll avoid an “Idiocracy”-like dystopia.

[Image credit: suchitra prints]

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work