The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Is the Computer Age Killing Reading?

Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor

ImageMarch 2 marked the National Education Association’s twelfth annual Read Across America, an event that encourages children, parents, and educators to celebrate reading.  By the time Read Across America started, I was a little too old to sit in my mother’s lap lisping through The Cat in the Hat, but the basic concept was around when I was in school.  Essentially, parents and teachers are terrified that the prevalence of electronic media is causing children to lose the love of reading.

But electronic media has changed since I was a kid.  Gone are the days when television and movies are the only things we have to contend with.  Now, we’re dealing with very different media altogether, media that can actually promote reading rather than preclude it.  Think about it: the internet seamlessly integrates text and images, and digital book readers like Amazon’s Kindle makes books cheaper, smaller, and more easily accessible.

But at the same time, is this how these evolving technologies are generally being used?  I spend a good chunk of my time on the internet watching videos on YouTube than perusing seriously literary material.  That’s not to say I don’t read on the internet: my e-mail, my Facebook site, articles in the USA Today Life section.  Not exactly the stuff great minds are made of.  And my feeling is that most children and teenagers are the same way, if not more so.

But is there such a thing as “bad” reading?  Is it better to read something insubstantial than nothing at all?

We are living in an era with the potential to be the next Renaissance.  Information that has taken the human race thousands of years to collect is available at your fingertips.  But just because people can access every book ever written doesn’t mean that they will. 

Honestly, I don’t think the internet and other new media are going to kill reading; people have been saying the same thing about television for years, and so far it hasn’t succeeded.  But I do worry about the fact that more and more kids are writing exclusively in text message lingo, and the fact that I’ve seen formal, academic papers citing Wikipedia.  I worry that more and more books are published by fewer and fewer publishers, that more and more independent booksellers are being pushed out of the market by the Barnes & Nobles of the world.  And I worry that reading is becoming less important to people in a society that is more and more rushed every day.

But as someone who loves reading and books, I will have faith.  There’s a whole world of reading out there, and I have to believe that people will find it.  Reading will change, but it will not go away.  That is what I have to believe.

Selected Book Releases, March 9-15

March 10

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman—Novel about an author whose childhood friend is accused of murdering her newborn sun.

The Difference: How Anyone Can Prosper Even in the Toughest Times by Jean Chatzky—Award-winning journalist Chatzky shares the secret to self-made wealth.  To which I say, I’ll believe it when I see it.