An interesting piece on Julie's blog on the value of reading*. How could one disagree?
I'm not sure I buy the idea that the internet - any more than TV or radio or the cinema before it - is killing reading (intelligent, engaged reading). It's a commonplace that people don't really "read" online, they scan and focus on what they think they're looking for, and that you have to structure content and write it accordingly. It is undoubtedly replacing a lot of not-quite-reading of hard copy print, but is that among those who would otherwise have read seriously, or just among those who probably wouldn't read seriously anyway?
There is of course plenty of evidence that writers keep on writing and publishers keep on publishing, and that the mass media promote the sale of more and more books.
What I'm in no position to estimate is whether people who do read books do so any more or less reflectively than they did in the days before mass and electronic media. I recently came across this from Milton's Paradise Regained (no, I haven't read the whole thing, this was in an anthology I was given for Christmas and keep as a loo-book):
"However, many books,
Wise man have said, are wearisome; who reads
Incessantly, and to his reading brings not
A spirit and judgment equal or superior
(And what he brings, what needs he elsewhere seek?)
Unsettled and uncertain still remains,
Deep-versed in books and shallow in himself,
Crude or intoxicate, collecting toys
And trifles for choice matters, worth a sponge,
As children gathering pebbles on the shore."
Ouch - I think.
*Note to self: where did I put that copy of Proust's Sur La Lecture I bought in Paris (well, it's short, ooh, when was it? I really must get on with it.