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With more and more people choosing the Internet for easy access to search-specific information, the traditional role of books and libraries is changing everywhere. In Kerala, with its considerable Internet penetration chiefly in the urban areas, what has been the effect of this pattern?
Our readers respond:
The romance of books
The other day my friend complained that he felt ill at ease when he read The Hindu on the web page. He felt at home as he scanned the pages of the paper and imbibed the news. His averment echoes the sentiment of many and, perhaps, sums up the difference between a book and the Internet. Of course, Internet penetration has triggered changes; changes that augurs well for book addicts and library lovers.
There is no common denominator that enables us to compare the Internet with a book or library. A book lends us the charm of scientific or literary value, hooks us to emotions and passions or leaves us in utter amazement in tune with the subject it deals with. It offers us freedom and opportunity to meander, to meditate, or to dream.
The invasion of the electronic media, including the Internet, could not overwhelm, up to now, books or libraries. The profuse patronage the latter get from various sources bears testimony to this fact.
N. Sadasivan Pillai
By e-mailNot a replacement
It is a fact that people today prefer the Internet over textbooks and libraries. For example, Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia, has become a very common resource among children and adults for general information. Children like anything that makes things easier for them and Wikipedia is easier to use than textbooks.
Children showing a lot of interest in using the Internet and computers should be considered a good thing, as we often encourage our youth to learn about technology. However, there is also a good chance that your child would not be interested in reading books. Although there are some children who still enjoy reading, many find it completely boring and want no part of it, even though the information found in Wikipedia may come directly from the same textbook. The same goes for another popular site, Google. One must always keep in mind that the content found online are not always true or give the right information. The information should be used only as a supplement to textbooks, it should never be a replacement.
By e-mailUseful, but addictive
The Internet has considerably reduced the time and effort needed for finding information of a general nature. It has been a boon to researchers for looking for literature to find the extent of work already done in their chosen topic of investigation. However, when one is seeking in depth knowledge on a particular subject, the search-specific information provided by the Internet proves inadequate. It is here that the traditional role of books and libraries comes in. Hence, the part played by libraries well-stocked with up-to-date literature will not diminish in the near future, though the extent of their use may come down. Libraries will begin to disappear only when all literature becomes digitised and its users become completely computer literate. Such a situation, if it ever happens at all, seems to be far in the future even in Kerala.
The downside of the Internet is that like the TV, youngsters become addicted to it. Though they can use it for doing projects etc. more effectively, the teaching standards in our educational institutions are not sufficient to inculcate in them an interest in such productive and useful applications. The addiction turns them away from reading, which continues to be an excellent exercise for developing and maintaining intellectual capacities.
ThiruvananthapruamAdapting to the times
Technology and the compulsions of competitive life have weaned a generation away from books. Part of the blame should be shared by societal attitudes which have placed a premium on academic and material success. In Kerala, it is not illiteracy but aliteracy which has killed the joy of reading.
One way of reviving interest in books could be to dovetail reading into the school curriculum. Schools and colleges should have well stocked libraries. Students should be encouraged to read good books and newspapers and hold discussions and debates.
Adapting to technological changes is the only way to survive for the print medium. It has to reinvent its relevance and utility by riding piggyback on the Internet bandwagon. In the cyberspace, the printed hardback will have to transform into e-books. Hand-held devices which contain books in the digital form have arrived in the market in the U.S.
Along with English, vernacular literature and fiction will also have to embrace technology sooner or later. Authorship and readership will become participatory and will complement each other through blogs. Libraries will transform into digital storehouses.
The Gutenberg era will hold sway for some more time. It is too early to write the obituary for the printed book. But, high cost of new books is a deterrent for the book lover. The publishers need to switch from a high margin-low volume paradigm to a low margin-high volume regime so that more books will be sold at moderate rates.
It is true that the traditional role of books have been usurped by the Internet. In this increasingly fast paced life, people barely have time for even the most mundane tasks. Also, when the whole world lies under one’s fingers, relying on books for information can seem quite debilitating. But, the positive effects of the Internet are galore. By connecting remote rural areas it can help promote education and enhance the accessibility to services. Whether the public opts Internet over books should not be an issue as long as we preserve the values of reading and are cognizant of the day to day issues.
Shahnaz Mohamed Thahir
ThiruvananthapuramMatter of perception
With Internet becoming a global phenomenon, people have by and large become netizens. Watching the world on the monitor has become a habit for the people. Whether this effect is positive or negative depends on how we view the technology that has revolutionised human life in an unprecedented way.
Only a bibliophile will say that Internet has eaten into the importance of books and libraries. Internet has made work easy and convenient for readers and researchers alike. So long as the thirst for reading exists in human beings, no Internet can blow off that spark. Can Internet be an alternative to books and libraries? Internet can at best eliminate the distance between the books and the readers.
With even mobile phone operators acting as Internet service providers, information is always at your fingertips. Gone are the days of visiting the Public or British Library trying to find a book only to learn that the book has been lent out and waiting another month for the book to return. Information is available within minutes on the Internet, may it be for a student for project work or for an employee to present market research data to his boss.
On the other hand, Internet penetration in Kerala is estimated to be just around 0.75% and connectivity is still confined to a few urban locations. There should be Internet hubs in airports. Railway stations and bus-stands should provide wi-fi networks like many other States. With huge investments made on IT parks, such facilities will attract the IT industry to Kerala and also help the largely mobile student population.
ThiruvananthapuramA lesson learnt
“Find information on planet-Mars,” the teacher gives an assignment to the class V students. The students are ready to submit their assignment the next day though the teacher had given them time. She wonders about the secret of this quickness. The teacher is forgetting that her pupil neither live in a world that she had lived in nor are they using the methods that she had used while studying.
She finds the reason very quickly — the Internet. Now, she tries to explain certain things to her students.
She describes how books were her companions once and still are. A clear explanation about the role of libraries and books is also given. Who knows whether the information, illustrations and experiments you get from Internet are right? It is like spoon feeding. The mental ability to do research and experiments is lost when you get addicted to the internet.
The students of class V understand this concept. They decide to make changes to their study methods. Thanks to the clever teacher! Now, when are the rest of the students going to understand this?
ThiruvananthapuramNo time to read
“Reading dies” or “Decline of reading” can be used as a phrase to focus on the death of reading habit among Malayalis. With the advent of Internet and television channels, most of them prefer watching them than reading books. The common man does not have enough time to go to a library or book stall. Instead he prefers to read on the Internet. Almost all important items are readily available there.
Electronic media cannot be blamed for this.
In the 21st century, everything is through e-world.
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