Culture

An absence of books

Recently I shared with a friend that I haven’t read a book in a while. Mind you, I bought two books four months ago. They remain unopened in my desk drawer. They were books for work, afterall. Thus, a smidge on the boring and obvious side.

But here is the thing. I have a grand personal library. I love reading. Or I used to. It was part of my DNA. And, not it seems I evolved away from it. Or rather, devolved. I don’t have time to read. My eyes are tired at night. And, the whole television series binging event is a real phenomenon. Also, I spend a lot of time reading social media posts. But in terms of a good novel, I haven’t been very engaged lately.

I was at the beach two weeks ago. Well, a beach vacation that was spent mostly at the pool. That’s a whole other story for another time. But while I looked at my fellow vacationers I noted something odd. Or at least for me. No one had a book on their chair. I recall going to the beach a decade or so ago where many were completely engrossed in a book while they took in the sun. I didn’t see that this time.

To misquote the singer Paula Cole where did all the readers go? Amazon still sells many books. Are people not bringing them on trips? Sure, some may be reading on their kindle. Although, I have one and never got into it as a tool. I still prefer a bound book. But what good is such a preference if I’m not taking it with me to the beach? Luckily I get to buy a lot of books for my son. And, I hope I can help cultivate that love of reading and of books. Yet, I know that it is almost becoming a lost art form. Where will we evolve to next?

34 replies »

  1. Screens have taken over. I feel the same way, I used to be a bookworm but haven’t read an actual book in ages. I’m trying to get back on the horse by getting book apps such as Kindle (figured if I’m hooked to my phone at least I get some book reading out of it) and it works

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  2. As an author, the conundrum you pose is a matter if interest. Books are, after all a form of (tribal?) communication, maybe mythmaking, and there is plenty of that around. So the absorption of information, including fiction, is still with us. What has changed is how we are training our generations. The last 20 years we have focused on teaching the computer. My kids have a big rolling cart full of charging Chromebooks, for doing their work (When I do substitute teaching) . . . and, they carry a communications device, Capt. Kirk, that almost allows them to be literally beamed up into another good story whenever, wherever. . . “Scott, put up your phone.” — “Uh, I wasn’t on my phone.” — “Scott, nobody looks at their crotch that long, put it up.” Including in the middle of a test. What is really brewing is a movement among indie or self-published authors toward audio books AND the idea of the authors creating the audio portion themselves. Book stores have died, hard cover is dwindling, it’s a new audience. The phone and will handle both reading and audio content on the go. Give that a try – not sure is the PDR manual is available as an audio book yet – but give them time. Life is short, read fast.

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  3. We watch an hour or two of TV a night, as our veg out/slow down time.

    There is a real problem with video: even when something is ridiculous, a coincidence, a Deus ex machina, or completely improbable – what used to be known as a ‘plot hole’ – because we’re already invested, we suspend disbelief BECAUSE IT ‘HAPPENED’ RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES.

    We saw something happen – so it must have happened, even though it makes no sense.

    If something like that happens in a book, you end up dumping the book. Why? Because constructing a mental image out of mismatched pieces is too much work. But video ‘does the work’ for you – hey, they showed you it happened – so you get lazy and agree.

    This is interfering with the process of creating mental images that is the traditional job of the reader.

    And the ability to think critically about whether it makes sense is being lost – because you ‘saw’ it happen.

    This is a huge change in the information processing capability of humans, and a first step toward deciding how they should think.

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  4. I still love to read a good hard copy book as well, although like you I find myself short of time and occasionly having issues of my eyesight as well. Also I think it’s similar to social media in that there are so many books out there that it can be hard to know how to narrow them down.

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  5. I was born into this world without social media and with books, the ones you can actually touch and feel. While I do have a kindle, I love the feel of a book in my hand and I take a book with me wherever I go, to the doctor’s office, to the post office, and to the hair salon just to name a few. There are some places you know you are going to have to wait in line. I find I have to schedule a time to read because so many other things and activities are vying for my time.

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  6. I got bored with fiction, so predictable, until I discovered some very good Euro writers. I prefer non-fiction, and recently I started reading again, mostly for work, but some for pleasure too. I think here I see people reading on their devices more – well I do that too, less trad reading in public, and I suspect that people are not really reading, the internet has encouraged surfing, and short grabs.

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  7. I used to read a lot. Then I stopped. I know when (2009) but I don’t know why. I have read a couple of books since then, but I used to read a couple of books (or more) a month. Recently my husband and I have started LISTENING to books, while I don’t think it is the same – exactly – it is an alternate form of entertainment besides watching TV. I am a binge watcher!

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  8. I appreciate the benefits of e-books sometimes, but I love to browse the classic versions. It’s worth giving children a good example and reading 🙂

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