Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Urban Sprawl is an Enemy to Reading

I've had Jane Jacobs on the brain for a little while now and maybe that's the reason why, as I was staring out of my living room window onto the street, I made a strange connection between New Urbanism and reading.

It might have been my reading of the Kindle's imminant launch in Canada that got me thinking that just maybe if I lived in Toronto and had a lengthy daily commute that I would consider buying a tablet ebook device, so I could read blogs, magazines and the newspaper on the TTC.

The importance of shrinking a newspaper down to a size that is readable on public transit should not be underestimated. It has long been this way...

Aldus Manutius introduced many innovations into the world of printing. Aldus' desire to economically produce beautiful books of the classics led to the invention of the italic. Combined with the octavo page, cost of printing was reduced, making such books affordable to the public, a service especially welcomed by travelling scholars.

Ok, that last quote is a bit of a stretch even by my flimsy standards, but there is definitely a relationship between where you live in and how you use media technology.

When you live in the suburbs, you use a cell phone for 'emergencies.' When you live in the city, you use a cell phone to decide which offensively-named restaurant to try out for lunch.

When you live in a densely populated area, you can find out that your friends are in another bar and wander over. In the suburbs you find that by the time you get there, they've already moved on.

Radio survives because its a medium of choice of commuting, non-reading, drivers. Drivers can also choose to listen to podcasts but for those taking the subway, radio is not an option.

A student that has walked to the library without a backpack is not going to borrow any more than a couple books.

If you can fit a library in a Kindle, perhaps the library will one day walk to you...

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