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Question:  How would you encourage boys and young men to read?

Yann Martel:  It’s a tough sell, because it goes beyond, there seems to be, and maybe it’s cross-cultural, maybe there’s something genetic, I don’t know.  But you’re right, there seems to be a resistance in young males to reading, so maybe it’s a question of finding the right book.  Maybe the way to pass on the word, maybe they’d like, you know, oral words, maybe they’re more susceptible to plays, maybe.  I’m not sure, it’s a question of education, it’s a question of having their elders, older males read.  I’ve noticed that in reading males, young males read, old males read, it’s the middle ones.  And of course, the problem is, is we are dominated by the middle ones, we’re dominated by middle-aged men.  Historically, they are the ones who have been the rulers and the, there have been, they are the ones who have the most power.  So we somehow seem to miss them.  I’m not sure, I think it’s a question of education, it’s a question of setting by example, it’s a question of finding the right books.  I’m not sure.

Question: How do you feel about electronic reading devices?

Yann Martel:  I think it’s a great idea, I have no fear of it, I think it’ll save some trees and there’s infinite, it has infinite possibilities.  So to have an electronic book where, if you don’t know a word, you tap on it and it’s defined for you, to have a device where, you know, you can append an encyclopedia so if you’re reading a novel set in Paraguay and you’re curious about Paraguay, you can tap and get a map of Paraguay. And to have a book that perhaps at one point, you know, you’re reading an Indian novel, why not have Indian music in the background, to have a book that can then start reading to you, you know?  It’s a great idea.  It’s particularly suited for stuff that’s ephemeral, newspapers, ephemeral fiction.  And if you really like a work, if you’re reading great poetry, then you have it on your Kindle, but also you get it as a book.  So I think they can be complimentary.

You know, every new technology has its limitations, has its dangers.  The danger of the e-book of course is that it’ll be kidnapped by corporations, whether it’s Apple or Sony or whatever, you know... because it is a proprietary, e-books right now are proprietary technology, whereas books, books aren’t, paper books are not, anyone can make a book.  So, hopefully at one point it will be a generic product, like the phone is, like an actual physical phone is.  Anyone can make a phone now, any number of companies.

But as an idea, I think it’s wonderful.  It still needs work, but I have no, I have no fear of them.  I don’t have one myself, but I have no problems with them.

Recorded April 13, 2010

More from the Big Idea for Friday, May 07 2010


Why Boys Don’t Read

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