Here’s one I almost missed, from the fine, and prolific, folks at Book Riot. Josh Corman wrote last week about a topic I increasingly find myself relating to these days—the reader who is ‘spread too thin.’ We have differing definitions on what this means, I think. Corman explains his readerly anxieties thusly:
“The problems isn’t that I haven’t had time to read or that I’ve let myself get wrapped up in other hobbies, work, distractions, etc. The issue is that I have so many quality choices and so much access to books that I’m paralyzed, unable to zero in on one (or even two or three) to pursue with everything I’ve got.”
I can see it. I get a steady stream of new releases from the library, from Amazon deals of the day, from book bundles such as Humble Bundle which lure me in with one book I want, then include seven others with it and so on. I can see how someone like Juli, who subscribes to the Netflix-esque Scribd (or Kindle Unlimited, or Oyster, or whatever else these days) might have it even worse!
For me, the issue is not so much starting paralysis, it’s finishing troubles. I find that lately, I have been in a spiritual phase, and my devices are full of books you read in chunks: poetry collections, essay collections, books of art and prayer and faith. I’ll read for an hour or more, sampling between them, and make incremental progress on each. But I’ll go weeks without finishing one. One day, I will hit the motherlode, finish them all at once and log ten books into Goodreads. But that day is still a ways away…
I never used to read like this as a paper reader. I think it’s the portability of the eBook that lebds itself to this smorgasbord approach. If I wanted to relax in a coffee shop and do a little reading, I would have had to carry half a dozen hardbacks to read the way I am right now. But thanks to the eBook, it all fits on my phone. So I have Oprah’s ‘What I know for Sure’ book of essays, and a poetry collection by Wendy Cope, and a new translation of the book of Psalms, and a workbook on art journalling. And I can carry them all around with me in the palm of my hand…
Does anyone else relate to Corman’s feeling of being spread too thin? Is too much choice a bad thing?
I will not live along enough to read all the books already published – never mind those not yet out there. Yeah, I feel spread thin. The only way not to, I believe, would be to have a narrow scope of interest, monogamy to genre.
More important than book discovery, the next phase will be undiscovery – letting go what you might want to read for something you want to read more.
In consumer marketing, choice is almost always a bad thing. Humans are not inherently chosers, we are satisfied with the animals we’ve hunted that day, with the seasons when the apples are mature. In the same way, today we are paralyzed from choice offerings, like “marry or get a bike” and, from the other side, we are fascinated by the single things: *the* Coke, *the* iPad — things that are synonyms of their category –; and repelled from what gives us much choice: Linux (what distro?), other tablet options (what OS version, what screen size, what brand), events (one about technology in other city or one of the two about carrer in my city, to travel or not to travel?), and, by now, lots of fantastic e-books in one small place.
After years possessing an e-reader, I’m slowly starting to return to the more satisfying 1-by-1 reading strategy.