CliffsNotes for CliffsNotes? Yeah, Pretty Much.

If there's one thing that's wrong with this country, it's that our poor, overworked, not-nearly-pampered enough children have too much reading to do. Why, there's Twitter ("#lindsaylohan Hate when i record a show, then i dont have the episode that follows it!"), Facebook ("Yassi is missing old the days"), and SMS ("I was like LOL"), not to mention a myriad of long and complex bus and roadway signs.

What a shock it must be, then, for these little darlings to show up at school and be told by a teacher that they have to go through the entire 250-page Tom Sawyer! (Bowdlerized version, of course.) Or, Lord help them, the massive 600-page Invisible Man. And let's not even mention the cruelty inherent in assigning any Dickens novel -- littered, as they are, with sentences of more than eight words! It would take an ordinary high school or college student years to read one of these books. Which means that by the time he got to the end, he would have forgotten what took place at the beginning.

Luckily, the stalwart, not to say patriotic, publishing firm CliffsNotes looked with horror at what this nation's future adults faced, and so that company designed its famous yellow-and-black summaries which cut student labor by at least fifty percent. For example, Tom Sawyer is down to a slim 96 pages in the CliffsNotes' version, and Ellison's book shrinks to just over 100. As one grateful student said in an Amazon review:

I had the read Ellison's Invisible Man for AP Literature -- and after struggling through the first five unbearably long chapters -- I made a decision -- To through th book out the window!!! Save yourself the agony of reading this "great" work of American literature -- buy the cliffs notes -- they have all of the info w/o the boring stuff!

You could almost see the tears of relief on his cheek, no?

But that was, as they say, then. And this is now. By God, civilization has moved beyond the printed word! We have iPhones, iPads, cell phones with apps aplenty. Why are we still forcing kids to read?

Well, we won't, because CliffsNotes has not forgotten its mission. According to various news reports, that company is now producing brief internet videos of its famous crib notes which will be shown initially on AOL, since "everything in today's world seems to be headed towards speedier and shorter ways to get information."

Twain and Dickens are information you see; not art.