I’ve written several books (finishing up the 7th now), so I write to convey information. I’m not anti-reading. With that said, what no one has ever been able to explain to me is the veneration of them as a medium.
Our brains can read, but how is reading natural or better than video or watching someone live?
In fact, both are more natural. Someone sitting beside a fire listening to a story teller is understanding the story in the same way that humans have since the invention of spoken language. Watching a video is much more similar to watching real events transpire than having our brains go through the extra step of taking written symbols (arranged in ways to approximate the sounds of spoken language) and turning those into spoken language, not annunciated, to create meaning in our brains. This is what books do to us.
Perhaps the reason that television, video, and the like on the internet are so engaging is because, without the extra layer of abstraction, we assimilate information more quickly.
The problem then isn’t that “we don’t read anymore,” but that we don’t have the attention span to read longer works anymore.
This isn’t a problem unique to books, but to longer works in general. Two-hour movies are rarely watched to completion on YouTube. Instead, people would rather watch 60 2-minute clips.
One of the ways readers compliment authors is to say, “It was a quick read.” That’s not to say that the book itself is better or worse, but that the duration is shorter, or rather, it felt shorter.
So, let’s reframe this conversation not as “digital” or books, but the length of the work.