Option one is to imagine that people have been seduced by electronic media — lulled by television, the internet, Twitter, video games, and more into a state in which they are pathologically unable to focus and, by extension, incapable of following a book-length narrative from beginning to end.
Option two is to recognize the numerous “environmental” factors that make it extremely difficult for people to find sustained time for book reading in their everyday lives. Hence the examples from my earlier post, of leaf blowers, crying babies, etc.
Since the first option "places all of the responsibility for not reading squarely on people’s shoulders and opens them (us?) up to moral condemnation," Striphas goes for option two, which assumes that "people do indeed want to read but that specific aspects of their everyday lives simply get in the way."
I don't know that it requires we believe a mass audience has been "seduced" by media into a state of pathological inattention to text in order to explain why books seem less appealing to this audience . The visual and electronic alternatives Striphas names offer a choice to their "consumers," who duly consume them instead of books because, I have to conclude, they prefer them over books as a way of passing the time. Acknowledging this does not open up such people to "moral condemnation" but simply recognizes that a) for a majority of people, reading, especially of fiction, is merely a way of passing time and that b) for most of these people, tv, movies, and text-messaging are preferred over "book-length narratives" among the time-passing alternatives. It is the way of the world, and no amount of chapter shearing is going to bring this mass audience to books except, indeed, for the occasional puerile potboiler such as The Da Vinci Code.
The assumption behind arguments such as the one Striphas makes is that reading is per se preferable to these other choices, no matter what kind of book might be read, and I can't agree that it is. In fact, if I were to advise someone whether it would be more rewarding to watch, say, Monk, or to read The Da Vinci Code, or its current equivalent on the Best Seller list, I would unhesitantingly say the former. Books that provide a complex experience well beyond what can be offered up on tv surely are more worth the time expended on them, but such books can't be chopped up into more easily digestible portions without undermining their very purpose. Readers have to take them as they are or leave them alone. Manufacturing other "books" so that they more closely resemble every other entertainment device accomplishes nothing for real reading, and won't work, anyway. Who needs books as a simulacrum of a tv show when you've got the real thing available?
Of course, the whole effort to bring books into the "contexts within which people live" might not be about encouraging reading at all, or at least not primarily. It might be about the effort to save book publishing as "a bona fide capitalist enterprise."