In reading some of the comments posted online about my Atlantic piece, I kept coming across references to the article being “four pages long.” At first I wondered, “Can’t these people count? The article is six pages long!” (OK, five pages if you exclude the illustration and titling.) Then I realized – duh! – that people were referring to the online version of the article, which indeed is divided into four “pages.” (Of course, a page of text on the web is an arbitrary construct, so knowing the number of web pages doesn’t actually tell you much about the length of a piece, but that’s another story.)
Anyway, it would be interesting to do a study of how the experience of reading a particular piece of writing varies depending on whether a person reads it in print or online. A couple of people have pointed to the inclusion of hyperlinks in the web version of my article as showing the superiority of the web as a medium for writing. I don’t buy that (even though I’m well aware of the value of links). These days, I share Jon Udell’s sense of relief in reading text without links. Jon writes: “Nick Carr’s essay in the current Atlantic Monthly crystallizes a lot of what I’ve been feeling for a couple of years about how our use of the Net is changing us. Not co-incidentally I read the essay in the printed magazine whose non-hypertextuality I experienced as a feature, not a bug.” Hyperlinks have a lot of utility, but they’re distractions as well, scattering concentration and, often, getting in the way of deep reading.
Now go click on that link and read the rest of Udell’s post.