I stumbled upon this piece about whether the internet has "killed books". It has made me reflect upon my own relationship to reading, and whether my attachment to books as a form is a force of habit.
I suspect it is. Us readers can be a grinchy lot. We hold our belief systems and favourite reading objects near and dear to our hearts. I am a diehard, incurable book girl. Put another way, they'll have to pry my books out of my cold, dead fingers with a crowbar.
I have reluctantly embraced the Kindle and tablet apps for reading. While I find them wonderful inventions in some ways, nothing excites me more than delicately fanning open the covers of a new paper book. People like me are probably the reason why the Amazon rainforest will become extinct soon (I kid, but...)
But the ending of this article both moved and provoked me, if only because I simultaneously agreed and disagreed with it.
"Screen culture isn't replacing book culture, what we're experiencing now is simply a multiplying of the ways we organise information. On an object level, books are becoming more beautiful and experimental. On a subject level, writers as well - never before have we heard from so many different kinds of voices."
To say that the internet has killed books is a little like the song Video Killed The Radio Star. As we all know, video and the radio co-existed peacefully for decades. And now that video has been replaced by DVDs and the internet, radio is still there - a companion.
I agree with the writer of the Hazlitt article that the internet has enriched the reading experience in many ways. I think it's fantastic that writers and readers are both experimenting with new forms of writing, formatting stories so they fit onto different devices and screens. 140-word Twitter poetry and flash fiction? Fantastic! iPhone only books? Why not?
That books are inexorably becoming objets d'art is also something which should be embraced. I welcome books that are beautifully-designed and well-made. Books should be things that are made to last at least a human lifetime or two, if not forever.
But like they say, every silver lining comes with a cloud. I think it would be hard to argue against the fact that the internet has killed attention spans. I wasn't born into the digital age like the kids of today, but it has been around for all of my teen and adult life.
Even as an avowed book lover, I find my attention drifting when I read passages that don't immediately hook me in. If I, who love books like they are small paper children, have to make a concerted effort to concentrate on reading - what hope does the true internet generation has?
That's why I think shifting the way we read, the forms of media we read on, and experimenting with things like the length of stories, the way they are released, and the design and format of stories are so important.
We cannot alienate the next generation of readers by snobbery. Then perhaps, instead of saying that the internet has killed books, we will read an article in another 5-10 years that talk about how the internet has saved literature. One can only hope!
Do you think the internet has killed books?