I have more than a hundred feeds on my Google Reader. It could be much more, just that I haven’t bothered to keep track. Apart from these hundred odd feeds, I also read posts which have been shared by people on my GTalk friends list. And then, you have people who send you the odd link to some strong post or article, and I usually end up reading them too.
The point I’m trying to drive at is that most of my reading time nowadays is spent reading blogs and news articles and magazine articles. The kind of stuff that promises to offer a strong insight once every 1000 words or so, and usually delivers on that promise. Which, in effect, has spoilt me.
So, in effect, whenever I read something, I end up expecting an insight every few hundred words (no, i’m not that jobless to count words. this is just an approximate estimate). And this is the reason why, I think, I’ve stopped reading fiction. Fiction simply doesn’t offer the same kind of insights that blogs do. Yes, stories can be insightful. They do help you learn stuff. They definitely help you “develop as a person”. But if they are longer than a few hundred words (i still have appetite for short stories), they end up boring me. I quickly lose interest. I find no point in reading them.
Whenever I look at a book now, I end up comparing the experience to reading blogs. I see if the book can promise insight at the same rates that blogs can. Which is why I hate single-idea books. i had recently read this book called Why Popcorn Costs So much at the movies. My crib with that was that it didn’t offer enough insight for it’s length. What could have been explained in 20 blog posts had been stitched into a book.
In the era before blogs, such books made sense. There was no quick fix way to get insights, and you would be willing to plough through long books in order to get some insights. And for the author, there was no quick and profitable way of disseminating insights – he was forced to write long books. It was a sustainable market.
Blogging seems to have changed all that. There is a quick and possibly profitable way of disseminating informationn. There is a quick and easy way of receiving it. Some books that were great ideas in an earlier era simply can’t hold up now. In these times, if you are to write a book, you need to make sure that there is actually enough material to hold up all the pages that it’s written on. That even if the main idea can’t hold for so long (it usually can’t), you put in enough sub-plots and side-stories to sustain it.
I want to write books some day. Maybe even take that as a full-time profession – though it’s too early to call on that. However, when I do get down to writing this, I need to keep this concept in mind. That I will need to fill the book with enough insights to sustain it.
PS: i don’t feel the same about movies. I don’t mind the slow buildup and long periods where nothing happens at all. maybe it’s because the movie lasts only about two odd hours in its entirety.