Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When is reading not reading?

The New York Times recently began a new series of articles on the future of reading and the impact the internet has had on how and what people are reading. The first article entitled Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? examines the reading habits or teenagers and young adults and poses the question - if one is reading an essay off the internet, can this really be considered reading?

In our digital age, most librarians agree that any reading should not be discounted. The internet isn't the enemy of reading, it has just added a new format in addition to printed material. Many of the points in this argument sound very similar to objections raised by parents and teachers as books-on-tape began growing in popularity in the late 1970's.
Regardless of format, the timeless question of "What do I read now?" never goes away, even with the internet. A reader may just need to work a little harder to find quality books and essays utilizing the web.

Through Project Gutenburg, e-books have been available via computer since 1971. With 25,000 books and counting, Gutenburg texts are books with expired copyright that have entered public domain. And for the younger set, the International Children's Digital Library is a online library of children's literature from around the world, available in their originally published language.
Major newspapers now have much of their content on their webpages, occasionally even more than in the print version - particularly supporting photos or videos. See NY Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal. The NewsLink webpage (edited by the American Journalism Review) claims to link to over 3,400 U.S. newspapers and 2,000 non-U.S. papers.

Prefer literature to current events? The Literary Review has a web edition. The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes the web newsletter Arts & Letters Daily, linking to new and essays about art & literature. Humorous yet occasionally thought-provoking essays can be found at McSweeney's, Slate, Salon or even the Onion - the web favorite for a satirical look at news headlines.

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