This year's Amazon shareholder letter from CEO Jeff Bezos focuses on the Kindle. I love the phrase he uses several times in the letter, "information snacking":
They’ve (electronic devices) shifted us more toward information snacking, and I would argue toward shorter attention spans.Actually, if it's well designed, I'd like to think future versions of the Kindle will be the solution for both long-form reading and information snacking.
If our tools make information snacking easier, we’ll shift more toward information snacking and away from long-form reading.
We hope Kindle and its successors may gradually and incrementally move us over years into a world with longer spans of attention, providing a counterbalance to the recent proliferation of info-snacking tools.
I just started reading The Last Lecture on my Blackberry (via Mobipocket). I always have my Blackberry with me, so I'll read it in time slices throughout the day. In this situation I'm forcing the info-snacking Blackberry to serve as more of a long-form reading device. Not ideal, but certainly an adequate solution for a 224-page book.
Although Bezos hopes we'll all develop longer attention spans, I think that's highly unlikely. In fact, my bet is that future versions of the Kindle will have more and more info-snacking capabilities built-in. I just can't see any device having a major impact on reading patterns and info-gathering tendencies, unless that device is simply encouraging even more info-snacking.