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The computer age, with its unlimited data-crunching capability, has unleashed a treasure trove of information. For someone long shielded from data and information, the rawness and liveliness can be spellbinding. But it takes tons of information to be distilled into knowledge. (来源:英语杂志 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

In our society there is an undercurrent of skepticism and aversion toward knowledge, which in the old days was spoon-fed with little room left for questioning. People, therefore, want to be closer to the source and conduct their own little investigation or analysis, which sometimes leads to new revelations. As a result, the pendulum has swung from the end of blind acceptance of everything printed to the other end of DIY scrutiny of every piece of data. I have to say this correction was needed and will eventually balance out the weight of both information and knowledge, which tend to be embodied in digital and print respectively.

The road from knowledge to wisdom has equally been subverted by the digital revolution. The epiphanies derived from reading Hamlet or Li Bai's poems have been displaced by 12-step programs and morsels of wisdom that zap through cyberspace. On a positive note, they can be seen as CliffsNotes to the real thing; but this quasi-sagacity serves to lull its readership into a false sense of enlightenment. Wisdom cannot be drummed into you through rote learning, nor can it always be boiled down to 140 characters. It has to come from learning through personal experiences or through books, which are essentially those aspects of others' experiences that can be imparted and shared.

Serious reading, on whatever platform or in whatever form, has its place in the advance of human civilization. All technological breakthroughs, such as the audio-visual revolution of the previous generation and now the digital revolution, all serve to complement it. Words as the all-powerful embodiment of human knowledge are never overrated and will never be totally replaced. More Chinese will realize their importance as the nation grows into middle-class comfort. The younger generations can afford to read books that are not utilitarian, at least the segment not addicted to Korean soap operas and their face-lifted idols. As Francis Bacon famously said, studies can be "for delight, for ornament, and for ability", and "delight" should rightly include the joy of elevating oneself to a level with a higher vista, which, unlike a high-rise apartment, money alone cannot buy.

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily )

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在一架从法兰克福飞往上海的航班上,一名印度工程师发现一排又一排的中国乘客都在埋头用苹果平板电脑玩游戏或者看电影,没有人在读书。

工程师的中文名叫孟莎美,他/她把所见所想发布到网上,收到无数回复,大都印证了他/她的看法。

我得承认自己没有尽职调查这个人的身份。为了能更客观地批判中国,曾出现很多中国人冒充老外的故事。人们滥用“哈佛教授”的头衔,以致于它成了笑话一般。

其实稍微观察下,孟莎美写的现象也见怪不怪。几年前,有个中国乘客留意到头等舱和经济舱的区别,并放到了网上:那些坐头等舱的乘客往往在阅读,而经济舱乘客在玩游戏。

就我而言,最大的震惊是,对中国年轻一代影响深远的年轻作家韩寒被记者问及其阅读习惯时,他说他只看杂志。还附上了一张显示他书架上很少书的图片作证明。

在我们问“为什么中国人不阅读”前,还是我来揭晓吧,这是最常见的回击“我们阅读啊,只是不像老一代那样阅读而已。我们可以通过现代玩意来更方便地阅读。”

我们不能说只有纸质书上的内容才是知识。任何纸质内容都可以数字化地显示出来,无数纸质书都有电子版本。电子书还可以配上声音和视频,从而更享受阅读过程,这都没错。很多人都预测印刷业和恐龙走在同一条道上——都会逐渐消失。即使纸质书籍不会完全消失,也会随着时间变成小众产品。

对于那些认为可以从互联网获取任何信息的人,我想说:是的,你可以,但是你不会的。我下载了成千上万本电子书作为个人资料库用于搜索特定信息。我也发现我的朋友和同事们都只用平板电脑看小说。一个媒介具备某种功能并不代表大家会为这个功能蜂拥而来。

我认为纸质工具书更易被其电子版取代,而受中国文人喜爱的散文集是最不可能被代替的。

现在我不会引用关于中国人阅读量的数据。当这个的数据与前几代人或者发达国家相比显得苍白时,事实可能更悲剧。我的出版商(我和中国几家出版商有合作)告诉我中国的畅销书大多数还不足以上畅销清单。原因是:它们是教科书或者补充阅读材料,换句话说,这些书都是学生不得不读或者买的书。

那我们来对比下中国和纽约时报发布的畅销书清单吧。纽约时报的清单中包含一些严肃的书籍,尤其是关于历史、名人自传,而中国的清单意义不大。在机场的书店转一圈,你会发现更加无望:几乎都是那些富人或者声称有致富秘诀的人关于如何致富的书。

最重要的是,中国有很多人都用满墙的书架将家里装饰得像个书香世家,但是却很少翻几页书。所以,制作砖头书的家庭手工业出现了,砖头书只有封面,没有内容,最合适装饰。

是的,中国人会通过读书来使银行账户充实,但是却没有让自己全面地丰盈起来。当然,这只是一种趋势,并不适用于任何一个人。“碎片阅读”或者“轻阅读”这样的词浓缩了中国这样一种现象——刚脱离贫困走上小康的人们觉得没必要把自己提升到一个更具启蒙性的阶段。还没必要。

读孔子的《论语》或者莎士比亚的著作不是为了通过考试或者任何实际用途,而是为了从人文财富中吸收营养,使自己变得更好。

 
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