Today, I spent some time reading the local paper while eating lunch. In between bites of my pasta and garlic bread, I read an article about a new website launched by University of Oregon students called “Booklandia.tv.” The “tv” part of the web address instantly turned me off because it was a good indication it meant the site was all about videos. As someone who is profoundly deaf, without hearing aids, I tend to stay away from videos and don’t really visit YouTube much because a great many videos on the Internet are not closed captioned. Unless the video states it includes song lyrics or captioning, I won’t watch it. This is also why I elected not to stream any movies on Netflix, as I heard they were not closed captioned. (Ditto when I had an Amazon Prime membership.) Still, I was curious about this site lauded as a “video channel just for book lovers” since I am myself a booklover.
I didn’t check the site out right away, though. I wanted to read the article first. And there were a couple of things in that article which bothered me.
First, the author of the article claimed that we are living in an era in which “writing, publishing and reading are all in decline.” Really? We are? That’s news to me! One thing I love about living in Eugene is that I am among booklovers. Seriously, every time I go to the library or the bookstore, there are a ton of people there perusing books, buying books, checking books out and READING them. I am curious where the author got her information. I have associated with people who are bigger bookworms than I am. I also often see people leaving the library with stacks of books in their arms or bags filled with books. When I have gone to the annual book sale, there’s people everywhere loading up boxes and bags of books.
Granted, this may not be proof that they actually READ the books, but there is no shortage of booklovers in my neck of the woods. These are my people!
I read for at least an hour every day. I read 2 books at a time: One novel and a nonfiction book. I have 4 bookcases of books in my home, plus 3 boxes of books and a shelf of books in my room. My kids read, too. My son has two bookcases filled with books in his room. My teenaged daughter has a ginormous bookshelf of books in her room. My husband is also a reader. I even keep a couple of books on my nightstand – there for me to read when I have trouble sleeping.
My daughter is a huge reader. She reads every day, particularly in a book. But she also reads on her phone. So I was a little troubled by someone in the article being quoted as saying: “My generation gets kind of a bad rap – ‘Oh, we’re always on our phones, we’re not reading[.]'” Why would someone assume that just because someone is on their smartphone, they are not reading? My daughter loves to read fanfiction and she often visits a website where she’ll spend hours reading stories. She also reads Creepy Pasta stories. She does this on her smartphone. So just because someone is on their phone, that does not mean that they are not reading!
Reading should not be limited to a book. We read newspapers, too. We read magazines. But in today’s technological era, reading is transitioning to a whole nother mainstream. It’s not that we don’t care about books anymore; it’s just that these days, many people prefer their books available to be read in another medium. People read ebooks on their Nooks or Kindles or Kobo Reader. They read stories and news articles on their smartphones. (I often spend time every morning sitting with my coffee and reading news articles on my phone.)
People DO read on their phones. Just because “they’re always on their phones,” this does not mean that they are not reading anything. Smartphones have done for us what the Internet and digital readers have done: They have made more forms of media available to us to read. Yes, perhaps what this person said is an unfortunate myth perpetrated among the older generation who perhaps feel some kind of aversion to this new way of reading, clinging to their print books and bemoaning the loss of a publishing method of yesteryear that was so much more simpler (if not more affordable for the readers), but that is a myth which needs to be dispelled fast because people ARE reading on their phones just as they would be reading on their digital readers. Same thing, different device. And the smartphone allows for a further advantage: Affordable access to short stories or other forms of media. My daughter told me she would not be reading as much on her phone if she had to pay to read all of those stories. As long as they are available to read for free, she is reading them.
Now, all of that said about the article, here’s what I have to say about the website. And I DID visit the website!
The website looks professional and everything seems to be easy to find. They make it easy for visitors to find them on social media like Facebook and Twitter and I didn’t see any poor grammar or misspelled words anywhere on the pages I visited. The site is not cluttered and it provides a handy list of contents readers can use to help find relevant posts easier. Additionally, there’s a search feature which made finding posts on topics a snap.
Now for the videos. As previously mentioned, I am deaf, so I was wary of watching the videos. I wasn’t sure if they would have any captioning or subtitles. (THE best thing about reading, for me, is that you don’t need to hear in order to enjoy a book. A regular book, anyway; I’m not talking about audiobooks or those new forms of digital books I’ve heard about that include videos and sounds.) Still, I was curious, so I clicked on a couple of them. The videos I watched were titled "What's on your nightstand? (Eugene #2)" and "Book That Changed Your Life: "Broken For You"". Fortunately, there was an option to click on “CC” for closed-captioning and I did so. I held my breath, because when I have tried the “CC” option on videos in the past, the captioning was never much accurate. It got maybe two or three words right in a sentence and sometimes words are not even spelled correctly. Sadly, that was the case here, for both of the videos. In the first video, the only part of the captioning that made any sense was “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The captioning in the second video was so confusing that it was almost hilarious. This is from the second video: "We didn't have access to my period" and "scarf things up look good for you" and "I'll nope no what it meant".
Yeah, me neither.
Booklandia.tv seems to be a good concept and a nice home on the Internet as a video channel for booklovers. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be a video channel for deaf booklovers. Maybe it’s time for the deaf community to create a site for booklovers that is a little more deaf-friendly.