Sorbonne Majlis Explores Writing and Reading in the Digital Age
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14-May-2014

Print books are still in the lead… online reading is mainly connected to newspapers, says Vital Rambaud

Abu Dhabi 14th May 2014 – In its current edition, Sorbonne Abu Dhabi’s monthly literary Majlis, moderated by Vital Rambaud, Head of the French Studies Department, touched on the importance of writing and reading in the modern digital age. The event was attended by a selection of writers, poets and novelists visiting the UAE on the margins of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, including author Andrea Hirata whose novel, The Rainbow Troops, topped bestseller lists, the author BD Nicolas Wild and French publishers Marion Mazauric and Jean-Guy Boin.

The discussion affirmed that reading is one of the fundamental skills for an individual to acquire and develop. Its importance lies in its contribution to the growth of personal experience. Through reading, one learns about what is going on around them in various knowledge fields. They learn about the heritage of their country and the experiences of past civilizations. Reading expands one’s horizons, perspectives and problem solving skills. It is equally necessary for communities and individuals; a community of readers whose members exchange ideas and insights is a strong community capable of surviving and, most importantly, thriving.

Acting as session moderator, Mr. Rambaud noted that modern technology did not affect reading and the assumption that the virtual sphere will spell the end of traditional print books has been proven wrong. The internet is a platform for promoting books. Online reading via tablets or smart phones is limited to electronic newspapers; print books still attract paying readers.

The joy of writing and reading cannot be compensated through modern technology. Unlike e-books, paper reading gives one the pleasure of imagining and experiencing the events. Moreover, with print, one can track first editions, the number of printings, and distribution, something that e-books don’t provide.

Certainly, the web and e-books, despite their great advantages and potential for sharing information, are not readers’ chosen preference. This confirms the book’s staying power in performing its educational and cultural message and disseminating thought, culture and literature for many decades to come,” said Mr. Rambaud.

The session highlighted the fact that the invention of writing was a turning point in human history and civilization. Writing is one of the greatest cultural innovations in human history and one of the salient features of progress and civilization, as a means through which humankind was able to transform oral language into visible, written language, which moved ancient communities from the darkness of prehistoric ages into the dawn of civilization.

Guests observed that the modern age is characterized by technological competition and that reading faces numerous challenges, such as the loss of intellectual property rights and the attraction of online entertainment, of digital platforms and electronic devices. These challenges and many more have weakened the power of reading, proving that modern technology is capable of impacting the lives of communities.

Guests also underlined that writing is the greatest product of the human mind. Humanity’s history truly began when it invented writing. Writing is a means of human communication, of expressing what is on one’s mind. Writing and scribbling appeared with the historic evolution of life and the mutual contact and communication of communities. It is a means to preserve humanity’s intellectual production and cultural heritage from loss and extinction.

The audience stressed the fact that humanity’s passion for writing is unlimited and so is the desire to improve the quality and tools of writing. Writing has greatly contributed to the creation of technology and innovation which produced a new culture founded on the diversity of means of writing, on fast-paced exchange of information, the vitality of thought production, and the ease of disseminating opinions through multiple platforms and across communities and segments of the population.