A bookish balance

BCB editor Matt O’Grady made an interesting point in his June blog when he spoke to a new generation of readers and writers addicted to the immediacy and interactivity of the Internet. Though I read my fair share of books, I’m of this Internet generation; my entire post secondary and employment history has been Google-dependent. The leagues of writers that relied on reference libraries (the kind with steps and rooms and Dewey Decimal-savvy librarians) is boggling. I can barely fathom the long hours of digging for some little quote that must have made the turnaround time for each story Paleolithic.

It’s not impossible that the new generation of computer savvy readers will be hybrids of both genres. It is because of my long days on a computer that I appreciate the smell, feel, and weight of a magazine or book and it is because of quiet afternoons with a hardcopy that the zip of the Internet is appealing. I am not torn between the two; I lean to one or the other naturally when my body and mind tell me it’s time for something new.

Research shows that the onslaught of accessible information, ads and links distract today’s online readers to the point that we’ve become skimmers, never reading anything in entirety. Magazines have thus changed their layout and content to keep up with the increasingly roving human mind, but it could be argued that this opens the world of hard copy reading to readers who aren’t intimidated by the traditional academic approach to magazine publishing. Some of the snobbery has been reduced, or at the very least is now more fun for a wider demographic.

As for me, I’m constantly making notes to find the hard-copy version of stuff I find online – whether a literary reference or philosophy, the Internet always opens more doors. To what degree is dependent on my level of dedication to collecting my bedside reading material, but such things aren’t a problem – after a long day at the computer the last thing I feel like doing is reading from another screen in my living room and I usually spend days off in used book stores, scouring for titles I’ve come across online. So is the Internet really bad for readers? I’m going to trust I’m not the only one who has found a comfortable balance between the old and the new and say no.