The Next Chapter

Why Lynn Coady believes we still need books

In an era when many ponder the future of reading, the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author offers her own take with Who Needs Books? Reading in the Digital Age.
In an era when many ponder the future of reading, Lynn Coady jumps in with her take with Who Needs Books? Reading in the Digital Age. (CBC)

Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author Lynn Coady loves to read books. Which is why she argues that digital culture and literary culture are not at odds in her lecture-turned-book, Who Needs Books? Reading in the Digital Age. In fact, she argues that the two cultures often operate with the same end: getting people to read. 

On the moral panic around popular culture

It seems very relevant to me that we've always been making the same kind of complaints about popular culture, no matter what manifestation that popular culture takes. Right now it's a digital culture. Everybody is into digital culture and it's destroying minds and learning and literacy. In my day, the blight-du-jour was television. I can recall the same sort of alarmism; there was the iconic couch potato. I remember being a kid and hearing these kinds of admonishments from adults in my life: "Don't waste your life in front of the television." And I remember thinking, "Don't take this away from me!" In terms of culture, it's not an exaggeration to say it was all I had, other than books. What television did was it provided me a portal out into the rest of the world and I saw what kind of art was being made in other places.

On the Internet increasing literacy

Margaret Atwood got into trouble for saying the internet increases literacy. People lost their minds that someone of Atwood's stature would say something like that. But she was being very literal, she was saying, "You can't read stuff on the internet, be it Twitter, Facebook or Buzzfeed, without being literate." The internet is a town common, it's the marketplace, it's where people reside and have conversations and share information. You have to be able to read to be on it. Because it's such a phenomenon, that in itself has to mean people reading more than they have before.

Lynn Coady's comments have been edited and condensed.