I was on Indiblogger just this morning and happened to see an IndiSpire prompt that went as follows:
‘Reading books has reduced dramatically in today’s youth. Kids who read books are treated as socially incapable nerds. What is your take on this topic?’
This took me back a few weeks when my editor and I were talking about the future of books. She told me the story of her niece who grew up in a family of readers and yet now doesn’t have the time to read. Though she had been a keen reader during her early teens, now she just has enough interest for Facebook and games on her phone. My editor did not quite come out and say that reading is dying as a habit, but I could hear the despondency in her words. ‘Books are dying,’ she seemed to say. ‘How will our kids learn to read books with all these distractions about?’
On the other hand…
We’re all reading and writing much more today than we were ten years ago. All communication has moved to the written form. We write more emails, send more texts, exchange more ‘instant messages’ today than we’d ever done in our history. On the internet, by last count there are 200 million websites with ‘content’ in them. This is content that someone or the other is writing, and someone or the other is reading. Even if we conservatively assume that a mere 1% of them are active or good, that’s still 2 million websites churning out things for people to read.
Amazon, one of the world’s biggest companies today, deals exclusively in books. Every business worth mentioning has a blog. Every freelancer serious about building a personal brand must ‘engage’ and ‘be social’. Which are newfangled words for what were once ‘reading’ and ‘writing’. Because after all, what is a blog post but a piece of writing? And what is ‘engagement’ if not reading comments and responding to them? What is ‘being social’ in our world but writing something onto a screen for someone else to read?
Are we just switching to a different medium?
Books used to be the carriers of content a generation ago, and if you wanted to feel the touch of another person’s mind over yours, a book used to be the best device. But today you can write intimate letters to strangers across the world at the touch of a button. You can get instant feedback on your thoughts and opinions, and you can participate in global debates without so much as leaving your desk.
Those of us who have grown up on books will doubtless feel wistful about this. Those of us who write them, perhaps even more so. But there’s nothing to fear. If anything, the hunger for words, for stimulation and for thoughts is only going to grow deeper in coming years, as the internet marches on relentlessly in a bid to shrink the world to the size of a dot. If we stop writing or reading books, and if books eventually die, we won’t even notice it because something else will have already taken its place.
So it doesn’t bother me too much, this death of the book, because all evidence suggests that reading and writing are thriving. So those of us who love to read and write can only have a good time of it. I will go as far as to say, in fact, that if you’re a writer, these are perhaps the most exciting times in which to be alive.
Reading is just for nerds? Not any more.
As for the second part of the post, where it says ‘kids who read books are treated as socially incapable nerds’, when was it ever different? At least now, reading and writing are acknowledged to be necessary skills rather than as ‘nerd traits’. Today, one can say one is a blogger without having to cower in shame. When I introduce myself as an author, no one gives me pitying glances or smiles. (Well, almost no one.) Everyone is expected to read and write well. They’re now survival skills.
If that is not cause for a victory dance in the nerds’ camp, then what is?
Image Courtesy: Philip Vickers