There are literally tens of apps in the App Stores which focus on some area of reading: teaching you how to fast-read, how to skim, how to read between the lines. There are others which break down long stories, books and other narratives into bitesize chunks, ready for mastication. Others offer the possibility to listen to texts, to ‘read’ a book through the ears.
I conclude from the prolific app offer that reading is booming in the early 2020s. Developers and readers seem to be on the same page: read, read, just damn read, however you do it.
We live on the cusp of a cognitive revolution similar in magnitude to that which produced and was produced by the written word. Only this time it is about our access to reality and to each other. The second-modernity we inhabit has multiplied the types and layers of mediation between ourselves and the outside world. Technology is a mediator: instead of handpicking fruit or veg, we give the job to all sorts of agricultural machinery. Instead of communicating face to face, we designate a mediator, ranging from the telegraph to Whatsapp and VoIP.
We may call this the ‘mediation revolution’.
Our engagement with the written text is increasingly being mediated and has been disrupting our book cultures. What constitutes a book is itself a notion under review. Reading is being done in so many ways, and new forms and technologies are being deployed to mediate our access to texts. The homogenous culture of print we’ve established since the 16th century is losing its monopoly on texts. By allowing itself to become anything, the book is finally breaking free of the thraldom to typography. One of the welcome results of this process is that the words are back into the marketplace, where they can choose which job to apply for.