In The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (Oxford), Wheaton College English professor Alan Jacobs offers a bracingly contrarian take on the idea that modern technologies and markets are harming deep literacy.
Are our techno-screens pulling us away from contemplative reading? Jacobs argues, based on his own experience, that the Kindle in particular “generates an inertia that makes it significantly easier to keep reading than to do anything else,” either physically (easier than holding a big book open) or intellectually (easier than jumping forward or back, or checking how far to the end).
Jacobs reminds us that serious, contemplative reading, despite what the metastasis of liberal arts education might imply, has always been and likely will always be a minority pursuit. Fears that the Internet has spoiled literary culture, he says, “arise from frustration at not being able to sustain a permanent expansion of ‘the reading class’ beyond what may be its natural limits.” —Brian Doherty