Last man reading
I have a confession to make. I am nuts about science and how it works. I am telling you this because I just can’t seem to stop reading and thinking about all the information that science has given us. And for every book I read there seem to be at least a dozen that I want to read. And this time of month is a bonus for me because my all time favourite magazines, Scientific American and American Scientist arrive in my mailbox.
I am a factual reader. I read almost anything about science that I can lay my hands on. I like bios and history as well, but its science that turns my crank. But if I can’t find science or history, I will read anything and I have to admit that I do have a few novels in mind as soon as I exhaust the factual part of my wannabe library. The long and the short of it is that not only do I get almost all of my information from reading, reading is also a wonderful recreation for me. And the flip side of it is that I also love to write, ergo this blog, my weather books, scripts for my documentaries etc. So it came as a bit of shock to me when I read in the newspapers that people are reading less than ever. Here is Halifax we seem to have some very good anecdotal evidence to that. The Daily news has just shut down and the oldest bookstore in Canada, the Book Room, went out of business last month. It seems that people are playing on the internet more than ever before and don’t have the time or disposition to read.
ipods, on-line games, Facebook, Myspace, chat rooms are the way that young people seem to entertain themselves these days. When I wander into my local books stores, I don’t see the crowded isles or a whole lot of young people. Bookstores are coming to resemble malls. They now sell nic nacs, souvenirs, candles, have coffee shops attached to them, and even bring in musicians to value add for potential customers. Frankly, I don’t think this will get more people into buying books.
I worry that this marvelous tool that we have, one that took us out of the dark ages and set use on the path of civilization five thousand years ago, the alphabet, is becoming obsolete. I know that Socrates warned of the evils of reading and books because he feared that thinking would be diminished because people would rely on books to think for them. But I wonder whether we are playing with fire as we implement changes in technology so rapidly, basically because the businesses of the world think they can market more products.
So much of what we consume on the internet or on our cell phones, blackberries and ipods doesn’t require us to read in any depth or assimilate information. We are becoming a society of the increasingly entertained and we play with pictures, images and sounds, not words. As the toys we use become smarter and smarter there is less and less of a need for us to read or write, to use the alphabet, the technology upon which we have built our civilization. Books are increasingly seen as tedious, old and boring. And yet to me, the best investment I ever made was when I walked into my first library, plunked myself down in a gigantic, overstuffed chair with a dozen books I had plucked from the shelves and spent my time entering an amazing world of words, ideas and information. It would sad to be the last man reading, no matter how compelling sounds and images from the latest that the internet has to offer.
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