The Internet versus Books

The integration of the internet into our daily lives is a revolutionary act akin to the printing press, Doris Lessing says in her Nobel Prize speech, and as “a foolhardy lot” we gave little critical thought to how the internet would affect our thought and our lives.

This is an invitation to explore the discussion Lessing begins in her speech.

How has the internet and our increased use of technology influenced our reading habits?

This blog post describes the internet as encouraging a type of reading that is superficial and riddled with distractions. Alternatively, reading from a book facilitates the growth of a close relationship with the material where the reader relates and engages more thoroughly with the words. In the end, the article argues that formatting education to meet the growing reliance on technology, and the habits it develops, is a mistake that will deprive the young of experiences with “deep reading” and the benefits associated with it.

On the other side of the argument, this video blogger, although slightly condescending, suggests the “age of books” has come to an end. She raises points about the increased accessibility the internet provides and the cultural differences between Zimbabwe and England in response to the focus of Lessing’s speech. The blogger also occasionally combines and confuses the act of reading with the attainment of information. Does the internet blur the lines between these two activities?

The article mentioned in her video can be found here. The author raises a valid point about the quality of the material being paramount to the medium. But does the internet enforce habits of speed and superficiality which may make distinguishing poor quality from good more difficult, especially for the youth?

Finally, it seems impossible to discuss the influence of the internet without acknowledging the ever increasing role of social media. Doris Lessing lovers have embraced and tailored social media to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of The Golden Notebook with this project. These women read the Golden Notebook online and submitted thoughts and reactions as they read. These are publicly accessible for reading and commenting.

Similarly, a fairly new application for Mac devices has been developed. Readmill is an ebook application connected to various social media. The reader can share highlighted and annotated passages, with the intent of fostering discussion with friends and followers. More information for this application can be found here.

How do these hybrids of internet and books play into Lessing’s concerns? Certainly the internet cannot be dismissed completely, but can we harvest the benefits it offers? Are applications such as Readmill and The Golden Notebook Project steps in the right direction?

Join the discussion by leaving your reply in the box below.

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One response

  1. Pingback: Let’s get talking! | Doris Lessing Society

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