Technology and the Reader

by Tyler Woodsmall

Is the average American reader an endangered species? Many people would say yes. Smart phones allow consumers to carry high-tech entertainment devices in their pockets. While sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, instead of reading books and magazines, people are now on their cell phones and tablets. We could conclude that the evolution of technology has made reading an obsolete form of entertainment. But that assumption would be wrong.

The literature market has been changing. E-book sales went up by a high percentage in 2012 to 2013, begging the question “Will print books go extinct?” In an article published by goodEreader, by Michael Kozlowski reported that as of 2014 to 2015 the sale of paperback novels went up 8.6 percent while e-book sales went down by 7.5 percent. According to Jennifer Maloney of the Wall Street Journal, in her article “The Rise of Phone Reading,” nearly 54 percent of people who read e-books use their smartphones for that purpose. Though e-book sales have gone down, reading literature on cell phones has grown.

I have personally observed one kind of literary growth, which represents a potential evolution of the written word: free online literary journals. This venue surfaced in 1996 and has become exceedingly popular in the last few years. LitLine claims there are now 240 online-only lit journals. This indicates that publishers and readers are evolving with the times.

With today’s quick-fix technology, the average American attention span has greatly decreased. According to a Microsoft Corporation study people can lose concentration after just eight seconds. This affects the overall sales of both e-books and print books. Both must cater to readers’ attention span or literature will continue to become scarcer.

Internet literature allows readers instant gratification. After reading a short story or poem, they can immediately text or e-mail it to a friend. I am excited about the potential for online journals. In today’s millennial generation, few people carry books, but almost everyone has a cell phone.

The average American reader isn’t going extinct; they are exploring new mediums. The Internet culture adds more opportunities for new literature, new readers, and new writers. People who spend hours of their day surfing the Internet and using social media aren’t illiterate; they just haven’t found the right things to read. Perhaps online literature will meet that need.