One difference between a fly and a man
They used to say, was attention span.
He may or may not, but at least he can
Pay attention for more than a second.
The world has changed; it seems, today,
We live our lives a different way—
A major shift? Too soon to say,
But that’s how some have reckoned.
We used to sit and read a book,
Though days or weeks (or months) it took
But now, we wouldn’t waste a look
On something of that length;
We’ll look, perhaps, for something short,
Condensed into a brief report,
Or gut the classics for our sport
If we can find the strength
Our lives, now lived in snippets brief
Each written on a single leaf,
And when some day we come to grief
An epitaph bizarre:
Beneath this stone, a person’s head;
So many tales he could have read
But chose a different path, instead—
From NPR today, an interesting essay on the increasingly fractured informational landscape we live in. Books have gone, or are going, the way of the slow-cooked meal; who has time for a roast, or a novel? Give me a burger and a blog, to go! By the time information has made its way to a book, it is obsolete! (Interestingly, the notion that a portion of that “obsolete” knowledge is what was reported in shorter form along the way, and thus did not have to stand the test of time, is not explored. There are advantages to both the shorter, quicker and the longer, slower forms.)
For my thinking, the perfect compromise is a book, say some 300 pages in length, but which contains briefer bits that one could finish in just a few minutes, perfect for bedside or *cough* water closet. Overarching themes may well develop, and lessons may be learned, but such a book would take advantage of the new, shorter attention span. Indeed, the condensation of information into such brief forms might well require specific mnemonic and other cognitive devices–say, meter and rhyme, for instance, as a means of facilitating the acquisition of information. And it would be easy to obtain, just the click of a button away, like this:
It should not be free, though–studies have shown that information too easily obtained is valued more cheaply, and may be too quickly discarded. No, this perfect book should be priced realistically, reflecting its value, and yet inexpensive enough to be the perfect gift for a loved one, or to ask that loved one to buy for you.