Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Literary Collections Essays

Who Needs Books?

Reading in the Digital Age

by (author) Lynn Coady

introduction by Paul Kennedy

The University of Alberta Press, Canadian Literature Centre / Centre de littérature canadienne
Initial publish date
Mar 2016
Essays, Canadian, Popular Culture
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2016
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


“We look around and feel as if book culture as we know it is crumbling to dust, but there’s one important thing to keep in mind: as we know it.”

What happens if we separate the idea of "the book" from the experience it has traditionally provided? Lynn Coady challenges booklovers addicted to the physical book to confront their darkest fears about the digital world and the future of reading. Is the all-pervasive internet turning readers into web-surfing automatons and books themselves into museum pieces? The bogeyman of technological change has haunted humans ever since Plato warned about the dangers of the written word, and every generation is convinced its youth will bring about the end of civilization. In Who Needs Books?, Coady suggests that, even though digital advances have long been associated with the erosion of literacy, recent technologies have not debased our culture as much as they have simply changed the way we read.

About the authors

Lynn Coady is a novelist and essayist whose fiction has been garnering acclaim since her first novel, Strange Heaven, was published and subsequently nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction when she was twenty-eight. Her short story collection Hellgoing won the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada’s most prestigious literary award, for which her novel The Antagonist was also nominated in 2011. Her books have been published in the UK, US, Holland, France, and Germany. Coady has been a journalist, magazine editor, and advice columnist, and is currently writing for television. She divides her time between Edmonton and Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @Lynn_Coady.

Lynn Coady's profile page

Paul Kennedy is a veteran broadcaster and documentarist, best known as the host of Ideas on CBC Radio One.

Paul Kennedy's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"[Coady] digs into the recurring social panic that new technology is making us stupid, lazy and unable to appreciate our established cultural forms.... Starting with a Sesame Street anecdote and carrying on through Planet of the Apes and 50 Shades of Grey references, she systematically dismantles the common arguments that nobody is reading anymore and our literary culture is dying." Bruce Cinnamon, Vue Weekly, June 9-15, 2016

"This brief and superbly manufactured tome is a reprint of a lecture delivered by Ms. Coady... a welcome dose of much needed optimism for the survival of the book and for any student of the book publishing industry, it is not to be missed."

D.M. Hetherington, Publishing Research Quarterly, October 9, 2020

#7 on the Edmonton Journal's Non-fiction Bestsellers list for the week of April 15, 2016 The Edmonton Journal.

"[Creative writer Lynn Coady] argues for the relevance of books … as repositories and vehicles for transmitting stories, for encouraging imaginative and critical thought, and for creating human connections…. Coady reminisces over the rituals surrounding book reading and its immediate gratification that are not elitist, but rather universal…. Her argument thus focuses ultimately on … the sense of immersion that a good story can give a reader." [Full review at]

Canadian Literature

"...despite popular perceptions to the contrary, says Coady, statistics indicate that overall readership is up in many demographics today. Fears about the end of reading are attributable more to generational anxieties than to reality... Ultimately Coady's argument is a reassuring dismantling of the imminent book apocalypse. Odds are, if you've read this far, you'll enjoy finding out the answer to 'Who Needs Books?'"

Alberta Views

Other titles by Lynn Coady