The surveys of 2,986 respondents, carried out in English and Spanish at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, also showed that the average (calculated by mean) American reads 17 books a year.
However, 19% of respondents aged 16 and over said that they hadn’t read a single book in any format, over the previous 12 months – the highest since such surveys on American reading habits began in 1978. If this figure is accurate, that means more than 50 million Americans don’t read books at all.
This is the typical fare of discourse of the reading crisis that I’ve commented on extensively elsewhere. In some ways it seems to me that this speaks to a kind of literacy divide–those who can concentrate and comprehend (or just tolerate) long-form texts and those who cannot. I am no longer completely sure we have a reading crisis in the abstract. I think in some respects people are reading more than ever. But I do think we have a concrete reading crisis in the sense that long form reading of many types is becoming harder to sustain.
The advantage of the codex, fewer distractions. The disadvantage of the codex, we are living in a world of distraction. One of Alex Juhasz’s insights at the Re:Humanities 2012 undergraduate conference a couple of weeks ago was that we have to figure out how to write for a world that is permanently distracted. Is this a better world? I doubt it. Is it a reality? I don’t know how to doubt that it is.
The question is, how may one write in to that world while also intervening and resisting its most fragmenting and distracting aspects. What kind of writing might both engage and accept distractedness while ultimately provoke focus and concentration or at least pointing to their possibility?