For the 'reasons to read fiction' files:
"...the second thing fiction does is to build empathy. When you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using you imagination, create a world and people it and look out through their eyes. You get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well. You're becoming someone else, and when you return to your own world, you're going to be slightly changed.
Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals."
On the digital divide:
"I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old; there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand; they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them."
"We writers -- and especially writers for children, but all writers -- have an obligation to our readers: it's the obligation to write true things, especially important when we are creating tales of people who do not exist in places that never were -- to understand that truth is not in what happen but what it tell us about who we are. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all."
Related: MIT scientists discuss the importance of science fiction in nurturing inventors.