I recently came across a nice article about reading and writing on the web. The author of the article runs a website called ‘Browser‘ where he posts links to the best six articles of the day with short introduction. I think it’s a very nice concept. Readers are always short of time. They have a lot to read and too little time, always. Hence, it’s nice if someone does the hard work of going through hundreds of articles and culling the best ones for you.
There is simply too much to read on the web. It’s all free and available just at a click of a button. The choice is overwhelming. But most of the times we are clueless about where the best stuff is and how to search it. I think Twitter has helped me a lot here. I follow people who are voracious readers themselves and pursue the same interests as me (i.e. technology, media, linguistics, etc.). These people do not share everything that they read, but only the articles they enjoy the most. RSS readers do not appeal to me anymore. They push every damn article from the feed I have subscribed to and also lack that special human touch.
The best thing about internet, as far as reading is concerned, is the hyperlinks. I once came across an article on digital dualism by Nathan Jurgenson. I was thinking about this argument in my head for a long time, but had not come across any critique on the topic yet. But that article had links to many other articles expanding the argument and those articles had links to some other articles. So without taking any efforts, my reading on the topic was done in just one sitting.
I used to smirk at hyperlinks before, as I used to think they kill the purity of a write-up. But now I have come to realize their importance. Hyperlinks is a great tool in the hands of the authors. It allows them to mention a specific event, concept, column, etc. and talk about it without going into much details, as readers can always click on the link to understand the context. Readers like me find these links very useful, especially if I am greatly interested in the topic. I share the belief of Tim Berners Lee that hyperlinks have made the web more open and dynamic.
I have doubts if internet has truly democratized reading, as the access costs are still high. For a good reading experience, you at least need to have a smartphone with optimal screen size and a working internet connection. I do not think many people in India can afford that. But internet has surely democratized information for the people who have access to it. Today I can read publications like New Yorker and The Guardian and Wired and columnists like Mihir Sharma and Paul Krugman and Evgeny Morozov and Pankaj Mishra irrespective of for which publication they are writing, and all of this for free and at my own pace and time. Only internet can give me this luxury and I am thankful to it for that.