This is the age of the new media and the internet has come to occupy the center stage.
“I love to lose myself in other men’s minds. When I am not walking, I am reading; I cannot sit and think. Books think for me.”
– Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia.
Reading has always been considered a healthy trait. Besides being instrumental in building perspective, it induces knowledge and enhances understanding.
This is the age of the new media and the internet has come to occupy the center stage. First it was the onslaught of TV and now of the internet, many pundits have started to opine that reading books would sooner or later go down in history.
Instead of assiduously reading the written words in one’s favorite book, these pundits believe that many would turn to surf the net. Of course, the internet has opened up unlimited opportunities – an infinite reservoir of information. One can easily get addicted to it and spend long hours surfing innumerable web sites.
Does all these mean death-knell for books and thereby reading habits? I do not think so. Books have survived the onslaught of TV and are still going strong. It will do so despite the advent of internet. Publishers are devising new methods to lure readers. After all, reading helps an individual for more ‘in-depth understanding’. In this context one is tempted to quote Jeremy Golher, “A man may as well expect to grow stronger by always eating as wiser by always reading.”
Also to develop a proper insight on a particular subject, it is important to relate it to one’s mind – to make a mirror image. The book is fixed and the fixedity is crucial. Another new challenge in this age is not to accelerate information, but to slow it down.
Information is already going fast enough by itself. As human activities are accelerating everyday, the challenge is to decelerate it, make sense of our relationship to information and to deal with it in a rhythmical way. In such a circumstance, it can be underscored that the structure of thinking is nowhere in evidence on the net. Through reading, there is bound to be acceleration of thought. Reading would continue to give people time to think and turn it into serviceable knowledge. Unlike the internet or even oral communications, books would continue to hold a fixed mirror to individual development.
In this backdrop, it can be safely said that reading books is more important than surfing the net.
This article was first published in Meghdutam.com (between 1999 to 2002).
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