Thanks to The Passive Voice for linking me to a New York Times article on how reading habits can now be analyzed. Here are some notes that caught my attention:
"...The longer a mystery novel is, the more likely readers are to jump to the end to see who done it. People are more likely to finish biographies than business titles, but a chapter of a yoga book is all they need. They speed through romances faster than religious titles, and erotica fastest of all....
"Oyster data shows that readers are 25 percent more likely to finish books that are broken up into shorter chapters. That is an inevitable consequence of people reading in short sessions during the day on an iPhone."
Coincidentally, I recently read Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! which, according to the Guinness Book of World records, contains the longest sentence ever written, 1,288 words. I wonder how that would look on an IPhone. A better fit might be the roughly 2500 word chapters in the contemporary novel I started yesterday. Muddling in the conceptual stage of a new work, it is interesting to contemplate reading preferences. The size of a page was not a concern before now, nor was the size of a chapter. Not to me. As I insisted to a friend, the work determines the length of a chapter. It's a breath thing.
What does it mean this new size/length concern? Are the short chapters bits of action, bits of plot? Character cameos? If it is still a matter of breath, do shorter chapters mean that readers are panting through novels? We would not want that sort of experience for every book, which makes me wonder, what sort of novel works best in the digital form? Will readers' preferences end up changing the type of literature produced today?