London, July 16 (ANI): With reading habits witnessing a change in this era of iPads and e-readers, long novels with intricate plots might be a thing of the past, warned a leading academic.
Dr Bill Bell, director of the Centre of the History of the Book at the University of Edinburgh, said devices such as the iPad may "lessen the appetite" for books such as War and Peace, with their complicated plots and often slowly-paced structures.
Bell presented his views while speaking ahead of a three-day "Material Cultures" conference in Edinburgh that begins today.
"There's an older generation who might complain about shorter attention spans, but there is a new literacy which has emerged among younger users and readers who are incredibly adept at multi-tasking," the Scotsman quoted him as saying.
"The older generation might want to read a book from beginning to end, but it takes a different type of skill to multi-task and keep all of those things going simultaneously. It's about having a hybrid experience; it's no longer sitting and reading linearly from beginning to end, it's about developing new kinds of skill.
"A new generation of authors are starting to think in more multilinear ways about the way they can structure narrative.
"Some people would say multi-media devices such as iPads shorten attention spans, but I would say it creates new opportunities.
People are moving seamlessly between Facebook, sound and video files, using online resources while 'chatting' to other readers.|
"There are certain kinds of text such as newspapers and dictionaries which we've always read erratically, so it hardly surprising it is these which adapt so easily to being read on websites," he added.
Bell said that, while people may not be reading so intensively, they were reading more as a result of new technology.
And he said electronic devices might prompt a revival of interest in hand-made and finely produced texts.
He said that large number of people were using technology to access familiar texts in new ways, allowing readers to analyse patterns as well as revealing details not visible to the naked eye.
"This increase in accessibility can only be a good thing for the future of the book," he said.
"We are in the midst of a seismic shift in the format of the book and how people may read them. Recent technological developments may result in exciting new forms of books as well as positive developments for established texts. Books have not always been what they are today," he added. (ANI)