Goldfish have longer attention spans than Americans, and the publishing industry knows it

A goldfish for sale swims in an aquarium at a market in Kuwait City.

On Friday, Netflix will unveil its second season of House of Cards, and fans are chomping at the bit.

Can you say binge watching, anyone?

But it turns out it's not just TV we want to binge on.

Books, too.

The New York Times published an article that described something called "series publishing." It's not an entirely new concept, but it's a big pivot away from the one-title-per-year model most of the industry has been abiding by for decades.  

Publishers are now rolling out shorter books faster and faster, and Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn says it's largely because we're getting less attentive and more anxious:

"The average American attention span in 2013 was about 8 seconds. The average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. And then get this kicker - the average attention of a goldfish is 9 seconds."

 

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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