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Daily Archives: November 27, 2007

Suzanne Field’s article: Writing off the Wall  has me thinking.

“To read, or not to read, that is the question.” This was the question posed by the National Endowment for the Arts for a national study about reading habits. The endowment found such a sharp decline of reading that few Americans could recognize Shakespeare’s antecedent for the question. If he’s awake, somewhere Hamlet is spinning.

Not only are teens and adults reading less, absorbing with shorter attention spans, they’re posting diminishing test scores at almost every reading level. Only 9-year-olds are showing better scores, but those are likely to evaporate by the time they’re seniors in high school.
[…]

One of the saddest findings in this report is that nearly half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 read no books for pleasure.

While the electronic media is undoubtedly partly responsible, it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve watched my grandsons, ages 8 and 11, read even more — and eagerly hurry off to the public library for still more — after a session with certain electronic games that stimulate their interest in Greek and Roman heroes and American history, particularly the battles of the Civil War and World Wars I and II. Their charter school requires reading homework every night — for pleasure.

Several studies show that frequent Internet users read more books than those who don’t use the Net. The Internet can satisfy an eager child’s curiosity, enabling him to check a fact with a couple of clicks to a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Dogpile.com.

But for all its value, the electronic media is a mixed blessing for readers, especially for those of us who still like holding paper in our hands, to scribble notes in the margins and slip a colorful bookmark between the pages. Is there anything more intellectually satisfying than to open a new book and sniff the perfume of freshly printed pages? We’re becoming anachronisms in our own time, soon to be an extinct species as books of paper go the way of hand-illustrated manuscripts. […]

Like it or not, the habit of reading is about to be revolutionized. A reader-friendly electronic device called Amazon Kindle might well do for books what the Internet has done for music and videos. Kindle is independent of the computer and uses wireless connections akin to those used by cell phone carriers rather than Wi-Fi hot spots. The delivery service is free. “The vision is that you should be able to get any book — not just any book in print, but any book that’s ever been in print — on this device in less than a minute,” Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, tells Newsweek magazine. “The baby boomers have a love affair with paper. But the next-gen people, in their 20s and below, do everything on a screen.”

While the article itself is part despairing, part encouraging, that little device just might catch on. Perhaps it’s time to update my Christmas wish list. Imagine having 90,000 books to choose from right from that comfy chair that is a must for my reading time. Given the space restrictions of my home, I doubt 90,000 books would fit in it any other way. I can forgo the paper copy if it means I can have more books for my reading pleasure.  Forget about the “green” element and think about the sheer mass of volumns you’d have on hand at any given time.

The price is a bit steep until you think about how much living space it saves. I’ve seen a picture of the thing and like the title says: as long as I can curl up in a cozy chair…

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