Bring Your Own Books

Navigate Left
Navigate Right

Ian Leonard

Books are in quite the curious position in today’s world. On the one hand, they’re still clearly being read, as a matter of fact according to Forbes, books made up over 7% of Amazon’s gargantuan $75 billion revenue in 2014. However I think it is clear to anyone privy to today’s popular culture that books are in somewhat of a tight spot. Besides a few outliers, books seem to have taken a backseat to the plethora of other media we have access to. I can’t say I’m surprised, there are so many different ways to spend your free time nowadays that I could understand if pleasure reading slid far down on your list of priorities. They can be expensive, time consuming, and sometimes you have to wait months for the newest installment of a series. Despite these “flaws” however, I believe all of us have more to gain than lose from mankind’s original pastime. 

Many people thought that with the advancement of technology, print media, such as newspapers, magazines, and yes, even books, would eventually become obsolete, and they certainly weren’t incorrect. The sale of physical books has seen a sharp decline in recent years. Most notably, Borders, one of the U.S.’s largest bookstore chains shut down in 2011. However these products have found new avenues to reach their consumers. E-Books and large internet based retail stores, like Amazon, has made it more convenient than ever to pick up a new novel or book series. So books are still selling physical copies and e-book sales are skyrocketing, projected to reach over 8 billion dollars in revenue by 2018. So what’s the issue then? Well in my experience, despite these supposedly optimistic numbers I rarely encounter people who read books nearly as frequently as these numbers would suggest.

I seldom meet those who reference books as their primary form of entertainment, and I can’t say I blame them. We are currently living in an age where instant gratification isn’t an absurd expectation. Rather than read books, we could watch entire seasons of T.V. shows all at once, movies that can convey an entire story in a few hours, or entertain ourselves with videos on Youtube channels that are updated nearly every day. Why would we spend time reading books, which could potentially take months to complete, when we could just as easily experience a story in a mere few hours? Well, I believe it’s the simple fact that some stories work best in the particular format books provide.

Books generally are able to encompass a larger narrative than mediums with sanctioned time limits such as these movies or T.V. shows. This allows for authors to take more time fleshing out characters and building more complete and intricate worlds. I can recognize that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I myself remember hating having to read Lord of the Flies because of its wildly liberal use of imagery. But I believe it’s these people who stand to gain the most from these experiences. Nearly anyone will tell you that it’s usually good to go outside of your comfort zone, and this is especially true when it comes to this particular activity. Reading novels on a regular basis can expand your vocabulary, improve your writing capacity, and aid you in critical analysis of other texts.

I could go on for hours about all the different benefits reading books can bequeath, but the truth of the matter is, only you can decide whether or not casual reading is worth your free time. I believe that it’s worth everyone’s, but especially our generation as we may be one of the last to experience what it was like to flip through the pages of a novel, to understand what it was like to be hanging on the impending words of an author’s next novel, we probably are the last generation who will have to worry about library due dates. Deep down I think most of us can remember these surreptitious nuances that gave reading that undefinable charm.