Online reading is catching on, and how!

Shakespeare would be surprised. Not because people are still reading him almost four centuries after his death, but because someone is reading Othello and Macbeth through a medium he would not fathom.Be it Shakespeare or Neruda, The New York Times or how-to-do books, more and more people are getting hooked to reading them on the Internet. Online reading is catching on and how! Tamil poetry, language dailies, business papers, magazines, children's books - all are being read on the Internet. "I read newspapers and magazines online," says M. Saranya, 25-year-old software professional based in the U.S., who has also read a few novels on the Net. For 25-year-old Saikrishna, a knowledge management professional, reading newspapers online is routine. "From national dailies to financial papers, I read them all," he says. For those whose jobs keep them away from the country, reading online is the way to keep in touch. "I am drawn towards online reading because of my location," says Saranya. "Since I am in the U.S., the Internet is the only affordable source of news from India." So, she surfs the sites of language newspapers and national dailies. The way online editions of newspapers have increased accessibility to local happenings astonishes Saikrishna. "I am surprised when my cousin in the U.S. calls up to enquire about a happening in my neighbourhood that I may be ignorant of," he says.The nature of IT jobs, which requires young professionals to spend hours before computers, has also led to the surge in the number of online readers. "I read articles that I can finish quickly, at the most in a hour-and-a-half, mostly during the short breaks," says Anoop Karunakaran, 27, a management professional. "Online reading is good relaxation while at work," says Saranya. Tight working schedules mean most of them do not get the time to flip through newspapers; so online reading is the only way out. "On weekdays, I hardly get the time to read the newspapers," says 23-year-old Kavitha, a Chennai-based IT professional. "Reading online helps stay in tune with what's happening." "Another advantage is that the websites of news channels and papers are much more dynamic," points out Saikrishna. "You get to know the latest about what's happening, minus the continuous chatter on television." That does not mean people only surf the websites of news channels. "I have read English novels online. Also, the works of Kalki and Vairamuthu," says Saranya. "I mostly access the Tamil virtual university and Project Madurai for Tamil literature. Both have an awesome collection of ancient and modern Tamil works," she explains. She has most of the Tamil fonts on her laptop and "every site in Tamil has its own font which can be easily downloaded free of cost," she adds.For Saikrishna, accessibility to diverse information makes online reading interesting. That too when it has a wealth of material on his favourite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. He relies on the Internet for information on public speaking as well as for material on self-improvement.

ANIMA BALAKRISHNAN

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