Thursday, August 9, 2012

Good News, Bad News

Some good news on the literacy front: the biggest innovation since Gutenberg--the e-book--is creating more books and a bigger audience for them. So reading is up, whether in pixels or print.

This insight, from Timothy Egan of the New York Times, came as a great surprise to me as I read with sadness of bookstores closing and publishing in the old sense apparently dying, as my wife, Lynn, struggling to get her stories or poems published, keeps finding out.

Apparently, according to Egan, the popularity of Kindle and other such devices has resulted in an increase in sales of printed books as well. Without all the e-books being consumed, publishing in America would be flat or comatose.

One fifth of Americans say they have read an e-book in the past year, and digital readers buy more print books. Why this is the case is not clear to me. But it is good news to a fan of the old technology who believes that nothing can replace the pleasure of holding a book and turning the pages.

Less heartening is the news that Twitter users are being upset by Autocorrect, which unnecessarily and misleadingly changes words in an effort to correct spelling. Are writers no longer responsible for their own typos?

Apparently, a kid in a Georgia school typed "gunna be at west hall today." This was changed to "gunman be at west hall today," as if we don't have enough terrors. The school was locked down for two hours. Most of the "corrections" have been much more minor, just annoying to those involved. Annoying to me is the use of "gunna" and such shorthand terms in any communication. The use of standard English would have prevented this miscommunication.

Errors can cause serious problems, but when they are non-human errors, the effect is alarming. I am glad to say I am not and never will be a Twitterer.

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