Friday, December 11, 2009

Back in the day, a "platform" meant the tall structure where the high diver stood before racing out on the board. But somewhere in biz school lingo, "platform" came to mean a product springboard, a way to distribute content (what we mossbacks called putting information or thoughts in writing). For 500 years, the platform of the book business was type on paper, bound and covered in cardboard. Now, we book publishers are saluting our new platforms--electronic books like Kindle, Sony Reader, Nook. These ebooks are more than mere gadgets, their inventors tell us. Instead, they are new platforms for the book business, the first in hundreds of years, finally giving the finger to old-style paper pages. Fine, I say: anything, including hand-helds, are grand platforms if they encourage more reading. But a startling statistic has recently come to the fore: there has been an increase of about 350 percent in American data consumption in the last 30 years, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Sounds good, right? Most of this data is channeled into our brains by what is called "TV-related" content, which amounts to almost five hours per day. Then comes radio, then the computer, then Internet games and finally, at 36 minutes per day, reading. (I presume this means book-type material on any platform). Apparently, even the new book platforms, which now include hand-helds and computers, have not increased the low level of interest in longer content. We book lovers think we know the reason--that the young don't like sustained reading of any kind, that two pages is about their limit. But we don't know the answer to the problem. Since writers like Dan Brown and John Grisham corner the market on numbers of books sold, perhaps they could clone themselves! You can comment directly to my blog now, so speak up... Barbara Phillips