I have amassed a small library of books over the years. I relocate and travel often. Also, I have more books than I have the time to read (especially as the list of books grows longer while my time grows shorter). Quite simply: I just can’t read all of them! Especially because I can hardly read more than 5 pages at a time before I get too involved in the ideas and want to put the book down and go think about what I’ve read. I have to wonder: Would it even be worth it if I could read all of them? What would I gain from reading them? Do I really need to keep them- won’t we have digitized copies of pretty much all works soon enough? (And they might be ctrl+F searchable!) I want the knowledge in those books, certainly, but I ask: 1) Is that knowledge really worth the effort required to get it? If it is a work in the subject of technology (comprising a large chunk of my library), books over 5 years old feel outdated and quaint- and possibly no longer correct. 2) If reading is no longer worth the effort, how can I improve my mind and expand my knowledge? What should I read instead? How shall I learn and grow?
My mother (a baby boomer) recently told me that she felt an increasing alienation from books as they move onto digital formats that are foreign to her and difficult for her to use. She feels some sense of growing illiterate- of leaving half a century of enjoying many, many books, into a future where reading is difficult, arduous labor once again. Academics sometimes talk about “digital literacy,” but they often mean being able to comfortably use digital technology to achieve goals. Digital literacy might be taking on a new meaning as we become a world in which merely knowing words and having a background in literature is no longer enough to “read.” What a paradox: for the tools supposed to help us grasp information to alienate us from knowledge!