Our mission statement
The new importance of reading
Reading is a major cultural achievement. The manipulation of written symbols has enabled humans to create and maintain a world of knowledge on paper. However, with the proliferation of digital media, long established reading habits and practices, and the place of reading and the book in society, are coming under mounting pressure. Books are losing their former centrality in the media mix, and their cultural and economic impact on individuals and society changes. Reading has long symbolised everyone’s right to personal development and the freedom of opinion. While reading, whether for pleasure, work or study, certainly remains central to modern society, its nature is rapidly changing. As a result we increasingly find ourselves needing to examine what the book and reading actually are. Many reading objectives are consciously practised, such as entertainment, learning, and finding information. However, reading also has effects beyond the ones we consciously pursue. It also has the potential to foster mental focus, patience and discipline, to offer emotional and esthetic experiences, to increase linguistic knowledge and to enhance economic and personal well-being. Similarly, as other text forms besides print develop, properties of paper (and the paper book in particular) turn out to have unsuspected strengths as a distraction-free receptacle of long-form text.
The role of paper and digital technology
There are many modes and purposes of reading, as well as different media for engaging with text. In today’s hybrid reading environment, paper and digital technologies each offer different advantages for different purposes. The medium we use, the length and complexity of the text and the depth with which we read can all influence cognitive outcomes. The goals of Institute for the Future of Reading are:
- To understand the role of medium in shaping why and how we read and to what effect;
- To raise public awareness of this impact;
- To use this understanding to guide educational practices, with the aim of supporting people to maximally benefit from reading, both for learning and leisure purposes;
- To use this understanding to guide the development of a for-profit and not-for-profit textual infrastructure that maximally benefits individuals and society;
- To use this understanding to monitor the impact of changes in reading substrate and reading habits on individuals and society in terms of public information, intellectual and personal development and democracy.