I know I should worry. I am a historian, after all, and if people will not read fiction, surely they will read less history. And I’m a teacher, and like everyone else in the humanities, I know students just do not read like they used to do.
The trouble is, I am not sure the changes in our cultural context are necessarily a bad thing. I read many airplane novels, and I have to say that if the younger generation is doing something else with their time, not much is lost. I read New Yorker fiction when I feel the need to be literarily virtuous, but the pieces tend to be mostly depressing stories about lives that do not work out in rather low-level ways.
The can is now open. Worms pour out and spill everywhere!
Counting the number of novels students read is a poor index to their literacy in an information age. Lombardi is correct to note that cyberspace offers a wide range of texts, at all levels of cultural and aesthetic value.
A pig may be a pig may be a pig, but a web page is not a web page is not a web page. Too often, bibliophiles who have encountered some of the worst the web has to offer close their mind to the possibility that not only can they and their students find the good stuff if they look for it, but they and their students can help the rest of the world find that good stuff if they post web links to it (so that Google and other search engines will be more likely to point web surfers to it).