For centuries, books have fuelled the imaginations of many. From the moment we are born, stories of magical places have filled our wonderment and fairy tales have made the dreams of the four year old you that little bit more exciting. As we grow, we learn to read by ourselves. A book then becomes a place to get lost in, a place to escape into. This doesn’t change as you mature and the more books you read, the more authors you find and the more fictitious friends you make. So why then, does there seem to be a decline in reading books?
A recent study has found that nearly 4 million adults never read for pleasure, with 26% of the 2059 people asked saying they “didn’t enjoy it.” So what is it that has led to this loss of love for reading?
Technology? The excitement of sparkly, visually stimulating, colourful and interactive advancements may have distracted attentions from the plain pages of a book. With this technology however, has brought the likes of Kindles, which are essentially thousands of books in one single device. They may not have the comforting smell of a book or let you flick through the pages, but they save space while offering selections of free novels.
Could this be the reason there has been a fall in picking up a hard copy from your local bookshop? The internet offers ways to research, compare and snoop for the best price around, thus leaving the little bookshop in the big city lost, with 73 independent shop closures in 2012, according to The Independent.
So maybe it’s not the actual reading that people are moving away from, just the move from traditional to technological. A study in 2011 found that for every 100 paperback books sold, 115 Kindles are sold on Amazon.
What effect is this going to have in the long run though? Well it seems like there’s going to be a significant change. “Horrible Histories” author, Terry Deary, recently said how he thinks libraries have “had their day.”
Controversially, he said how he wasn’t attacking the libraries, but the concept of them. The Public Libraries Act 1850 introduced free public libraries to the UK. He continued that as it has been 150 years, there is a sense of “entitlement that we should get books for free” as the original act was set up to give everyone the chance of free literature.
Personally I am torn about his views. I do believe that there is a progression in society due to technology, which isn’t a necessarily a bad thing. There are now a wealth of options which mean that you have a choice of where to get your books from, instead of having to go to the classic book shop and pay full price.
Progress is not necessarily such a bad thing; there are numerous online book recycling schemes and second hand sellers advertising their wares as well as eBay which allows the consumer the opportunity to hunt for that special, or elusive novel, usually at a bargain price from anywhere in the world.
The digital download of the Kindle means that consumers can obtain books for free by authors they may never have heard of or would normally not buy. Books are downloaded for the Kindle because of the brief synopsis at the start, rather than it having a flashy or sexy front cover. Perhaps the likes of Waterstones and Ottakers need to adapt their marketing strategies to incorporate this progression into digital downloading before they too suffer the same fate as HMV, Zavvi and Blockbuster.
However, I do believe that libraries give something more than just books. Without sounding too deep, there is a sense of trust you are testing when you take multiple books out. The amount of books in there too, which he may forget, are there for people who can’t always afford to splash out a great deal on a perfect hardback with an intact spine.
Ultimately, at this moment I don’t sense that there is a danger of losing touch with “real” books. Books will always be loved, as not only do they look much prettier on a shelf than a battery charged screen, but there’s something about flicking through a novel, resisting the urge to skip to the end.
The internet does seem to be causing a problem for smaller bookshops, but everything does move on, as sad as it may sound. We just maybe need to make a conscious effort to visit the hidden little shop, stacked high with a wonderful variety, instead of making the obvious choice to head straight for the big chains, even though the book you’re looking for will be a much easier find.
As for the love of reading falling, I might just have to laugh. With the likes of E. L. James’ erotic “Fifty Shades of Grey” hitting the shelves, not only have we apparently suffered a “baby boom,” but the 40 million international selling trilogy has brought reading to those who you would least expect.
Booker Prize winner John Berger once said: “When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.”
So turn off your TV, pick up your book and forget about the real world, as your imagination is a much more exciting place to be.