There has been a rapid deterioration in the book reading habits of both adults and children.
While there has been an inevitable decline in the purchase of both fiction and non-fiction books by children due to the non-stop onslaught of electronic means of communication, what surprises me most is the drop in the reading habits of adults. I find that there are nowadays fewer people in a traditional bookshop (except may be in airports, as there people are trying to kill the extra time they have before boarding their flights), looking for and/or reading books. Adults, irrespective of their age, might have chosen the electronic media for their reading requirements – but, that is not a widespread practice in India while it might have become the practice in the U.S. Access to iBooks on iPADs and Kindle books is still rather limited to a very select community of executives and people who are fascinated by gadgets. The coverage on such devices in newspapers would lead one to believe that such access is prominent in India, but the truth is that it is not really the case.
Government’s efforts to launch a computer revolution in the country by launching a very cheap (USD 55) tablet have yet to take off in a major way. And, those efforts are targetted towards the school and college going children/adolescents, not really at the adult population.
Given such a situation, a strong library revolution is still called for, which can then be linked to the tablet introduction. The traditional way in which we all learned to identify our reading needs, identify the books that we need to read, located the same in our school/college/public libraries, borrowed the same, ensured that we read them for our understanding, knowledge and benefits, and then finally returned the books to the library, is something which needs to continue even today. This habit is clearly dropping off the cliff, and surely there is less number of visits to the neighbourhood bookshops both by adults and children.
The non-stop attack of social media is destroying the reading habits, while it may not be the sole cause. There are other distractions in the ever-changing modern life with its accelerating pace. More than ever, we are interconnected to each other, be it in the business space or personal space. We even “talk” to our kids and relatives via Facebook, for instance. People spend more time on their Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts and LinkedIn accounts, rather than reading books, magazines and newspapers.
When I asked my children why they are not spending more time reading about current affairs in the daily newspapers, their response has always been that either the newspapers are useless or it is easier to read the news via the internet newsfeeds. I was not happy with that kind of response, so I instituted a new habit on an experimental basis – I will personally cut news articles on a specific subject, say science and technology from the daily newspapers and then put these together in a file every week and ask my son to read and analyse the same – he needs to first read the article that I got from the newspaper cutting and then do a bit of specific research on the internet on the particular subject topic. Then he needs to write atleast 3 to 4 sentences on that topic in his own words to summarize his understanding and derivations from his analysis. Let us see how this works out !
In the meanwhile, happy reading ! Better from physical books !! Visit your library or bookstore !!!
30th June 2012