The book is dead, long live the book

This is a very interesting article (with some excellent book references).


Despite the attention once paid to the so-called digital divide, the real gap isn’t between households with computers and households without them; it is the one developing between, on the one hand, households where parents teach their children the old-fashioned skill of reading and instill in them a love of books, and, on the other hand, households where parents don’t. As Griswold and her colleagues suggested, it remains an open question whether the new “reading class” will “have both power and prestige associated with an increasingly rare form of cultural capital,” or whether the pursuit of reading will become merely “an increasingly arcane hobby.”

There is another aspect of reading not captured in these studies, but just as crucial to our long-term cultural health. For centuries, print literacy has been one of the building blocks in the formation of the modern sense of self. By contrast, screen reading, a historically recent arrival, encourages a different kind of self-conception, one based on interaction and dependent on the feedback of others. It rewards participation and performance, not contemplation. It is, to borrow a characterization from sociologist David Riesman, a kind of literacy more comfortable for the “outer-directed” personality who takes his cues from others and constantly reinvents himself than for the “inner-directed” personality whose values are less flexible but also less susceptible to outside pressures. How does a culture of digitally literate, outer-directed personalities “read”?

What do you think? Are we creating two classes of people, one for the Computer Screen and one for the Book? If so, what are the implications? Is deriding computer screen reading creating a sort of witch hunt mentality, to compensate for a fear of the loss of book reading? Does computer reading make it harder to switch back to the single-focus of reading a book? Or are we magnifying the possibilities of losing the "disciplined companionship" of book reading? Post your thoughts here.


lisaalber said...

Literate Kitten's back and back with a vengeance! Glad to see it.

nova said...

I hope you're back! You have been MISSED.