It’s a simple question – is reading a dead art?
With the arrival of smartphones and tablets, some people certainly think so. A quick look around the train, and chances are the majority of people’s heads are turned downwards towards a screen, close your eyes, and you can usually hear someone furiously tapping away on a laptop. These same trains not so long ago were once filled with people reading the paper, or a book they’d bothered to take with them. It is a far cry from reading’s heyday in the 18th and 19th century, when in it’s infancy one reporter cries that “[his] sight is every-where offended by these foolish, yet dangerous, books” (Sylph no. 5, October 6, 1796).
So, where have all the books gone, and why?
With the advent of the internet, so too came the advent of ‘instant gratification’ and the ‘culture of want’. We are more connected than ever before, and with the world seemingly at our fingertips, how information is conveyed has been condensed and changed out of recognition. Take twitter for example – within a few minutes, we can be up to date with the latest news and trends from across the world. This is in many ways great, but it has also altered the way that we process information.
By this it is meant that our attention span seems to have changed – we like the instant gratification of receiving lots of information in a very short space of time. Whilst books contain a wealth of information, they require patience and time that some people are unwilling to give.
The tech age however, despite the decline of bookshops on the high street, has not forgotten the value of books. In and amongst the distractions of modern day life, the rise of the ebook has been closely followed, and not without it’s fair share of controversy.
People are split – some value the physical book over the ebook, whilst others believe that this is the new dawn of publishing and readership. Both arguments have merit, though it’s undeniable that more books than ever before are in circulation, and that for a generation of people, how they read has changed significantly.
This is particularly true of younger people who have grown up in a digital age, filled with computer and video games, youtube and other social media sites. What may surprise people however, is that in an attempt to counteract this, more and more children are being encouraged to read – children’s books and young adult (YA) fiction features heavily in the bestsellers list of 2014.
So, is reading a dead art?
The answer would have to be an overwhelming no. People are still reading, perhaps just a little differently than before. But one certainty that we can be sure of, is that in whatever form, the ‘book’ does not look set to die out.