Over the past decade, our society’s ideas of what constitutes being ‘literate’ have been in a state of flux. The popularity of the internet continues to grow exponentially and our means of entertaining ourselves evolve alongside it. Physical books and print media become less viable as the younger generation begins to favor blog posts, online articles, and even fanfiction. As times have changed, some have come to question whether this ‘online reading’ can actually be considered reading at all.
Of course, it’s obvious that reading a blog post or a fan-created work is different than reading a physical book. Books have set beginnings, middles, and ends, while online, the conversation – or the story, as the case may be – is constantly evolving. People can add on to what they’re reading as they see fit, and in doing so may become more engaged with their reading. There’s also something to be said for accessibility, as individuals with dyslexia, ADHD, and other mental and/or physical disabilities are able to read online in a way they often aren’t in the physical world.
For me, personally, being able to access and read content online is kind of a blessing. While there’s something to be said for the feeling of a physical book in your hands or the way that paper smells or something cheesy like that, there’s no denying the benefits of the tools I’m able to use online that make my reading easier. As someone with ADHD, reading a ‘regular’ book can often be a difficult task. Something as simple as font size or spacing (looking at you, Atlus Shrugged) can make it almost impossible for me to focus on a text, to the point where I’ll usually end up not reading at all.
Online, however, there are ways that I can work around this. As part of my disability accommodations, I’ve been given access to a program (Kurzweil 3000) which allows me to more easily access my textbooks. I can highlight information to make it stand out amidst a sea of incomprehensible jargon, or even have an automated voice read the text back to me as fast or slow as I desire. Reading online or with the help of programs such as this allows me to seek information I wouldn’t have been able to access using traditional methods and, while others may deem my way of reading illegitimate, I think it’s better to find alternative ways of accessing information than going into the world completely blind.