On Paper Reading
Ken Wais 5/14/17
Do you read from paper sources as much as you once did?† I donít.† Even more disturbing I have concluded, that reading a paper source is rare for me.† To admit this about 30 years ago would have put me in the class of the mindless herd.† Or my social colleagues would have considered me a part of the uneducated, unsophisticated, underclass of people.† But, not today.† With the growth of audial sources of information, paper reading is declining and we all know it.† To be more precise, Internet sources of audio and video information have all but killed paper media.† I used to look at the many unread books of my library and think: I got read this oneÖoh yeah this Ordinary Differential Equations book I got from DoverÖI swear this Saturday, youíre it† orÖ.I really have to finish the History of Modern Japan.† Not anymore, do I have these mental admonishments.† Worse than this, I PREFER to listen to a book read to me, rather than read it myself.† Oh no, I said it.† This includes technical works as well as works of fiction.† I would much prefer watching a YouTube video on quantum mechanics than read an 800-page tome on it.† And as if I couldnít get any worse in my personal admissions of falling intellectuality, Iíd understand the topic more from a YouTube video than a book.† Oh, super-no I couldnít have said that right?† Am I now the intellectual equivalent of a couch-potato?† Look, itís not just me.† It canít be.† I know others are experiencing this literary morphing to being an audio-visual lover of knowledge.†
This change in literary taste is to be expected.† The growth of the Web, has made paper source reading negligible.† Then take having a PDF of book you can get from library and who needs a book?† Conversely, the ease of writing has exploded.† I may not read much in the way of paper materials, but I canít stop writing, like right now!† The easy access to word processing programs like the one Iím using now, Word and a way to put your own creations on a network where itís accessible to billions, makes writing irresistible to some. †Really, would you read a fictional novel rather than have it brought to life by talented actors?† Isnít it easier to look up a definition of a word rather than find that 2000-page volume of Oxfordís Dictionary of the English Language?† And who could not want to listen to a lecture by a mathematician or scientist, but instead read a textbook on the subject? Very few, I think.
The much more interesting question to explore is this:†
Is there anything intrinsically wrong with not reading paper sources and having material read to you or gaining knowledge passively by watching YouTube lectures?
I donít think there is anything wrong with this new way of learning.† Youíre not going to forget how to read if you donít as much you once did. †Listening to a book read by a professional actor is quite enjoyable, though I will say that discovering and reading the works of Kafka was just as enjoyable as hearing an audiobook of his works. †What we may be facing is the passing of paper reading materials.† Add 100 or 200 years and such reading sources will be extinct.† Pity I wonít be here to find out if this is true.