Reading is a deep and convincing passage to another place and time. So fully do we lose ourselves while reading a book or magazine that cognitive literature scholar Susanne Reichl of the University of Vienna has suggested we become separate beings while we read–we’re here yet not here–“homo legens…the reading human.’’
Moments before writing this, I disappeared into Mexico in early 1938. A monkey crashed through the trees above my chair. The sky, alive with mosquitoes “like sewing machines,” is still with me. The comfortable feel of the book’s paper pages helped me transition into homo legens and disappear into this world. Where is this exotic doorway? Under the cover of Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.
Which is why printed books and magazines will never be replaced by the internet. Pop-ups, streaming, email alerts, and other interruptions can’t help but prevent us from reaching deepest into the reading experience. The internet may be irreplaceable, but so is real reading with a real book or magazine. Far from being homo legens, we are homo interruptus while checking online to see Trump’s latest gaffe or skimming a few skidding graphs on our mobiles (sometimes while driving).
Naomi S. Baron, author of The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, ironically addresses readers of The Huffington Post: “Studies I have done with university students in several countries confirm what I bet you’ll find yourself observing. When reading either for (school) work or pleasure, the preponderance of students found it easiest to concentrate when reading in print. They also reported multitasking almost three times as much when reading on-screen as when reading in hard copy.” The same Huffington Post story whispers “Students don’t connect emotionally with on-screen texts.” A Guardian study “gave half its participants a story on paper, and the other half the same story on screen…Screen readers didn’t feel that the story was as immersive, and therefore weren’t able to connect with it on an emotional level.”
Which is the key to everything, unless you feel emotions don’t count. It’s funny–the most compelling evidence for the genuine value of print media is the internet. (Buy all the print newspapers you can right now, because they’re on the eve of a renaissance). More and more, our distracted culture is discovering that just when digital readers might be descending into the magic of reading, they’re yanked out of it by click-bait, snarky redirections, or malware. How many confirmed non-readers have you heard say, “I get all the news I need from my smartphone.” Some people really believe they read entire newspapers online, or certainly could if they wanted to. Except they often don’t. These might be the same people who didn’t really read before there were smartphones. Someone or some early childhood experience deprived them from celebrating the delicious thrill of reading with a capital R.
Which leaves you and me. This July/August issue is full of doors, each one a story designed to transport you to a favorite spot or even a place you’ve never seen before. People inside these stories are waiting to speak with you. Curl up with these tales, created for you by our writers for whom style is still in style. When you read this magazine, your past, present, and future is in your hands. Maybe you won’t lose yourself so much as find yourself here.