We might continue to argue about the relative merits of fiction over non-fiction, as the fictional characters in Austen sometimes do. But it is clear that printed books and a democratized culture of reading and publicity they enable are the most significant developments in human consciousness since, perhaps, writing itself.
One especially significant feature of this past is the discussion, sometimes acrimonious or endless, that attends reading. We may read aloud or in silence, together or alone, but we all know that the experience of reading — the mysterious sound of that other voice in your head — is just the beginning of a wider expansion of consciousness. This is why dictators and medieval monks alike feared the transmission of knowledge via books: more working critical minds were likely to put them out of a job.
--excerpted from the excellent Ottawa Citizen article "Does Reading Have a Future? A Noted Canadian Philosopher Gazes Into the Future" by Mark Kingwell
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