A couple of years ago, during the times of our parents and grandparents, there were very few sources of entertainment: visiting the circus, playing sports, talking to people or reading. For people who were looking to learn new things or gain some information, they were restricted to the latter two options. Libraries were considered to be a portal were knowledge was transferred from one place to another. Books had the unique power to transfer this knowledge. People somehow never quenched their thirst for books. Books overflowed from shelves to random furniture around the house. Do books enjoy this status these days? Do people still value reading as much as it was valued before?
Sadly, though, the picture now isn’t as rosy as it was during the olden days. How often would you find children take an inclination towards reading voraciously now? Hardly a few. Various surveys conducted have indicated a decline in reading habits, especially reading for pleasure. There can be quite a few reasons for this.
First, the rise of the world of gadgets. Children nowadays take to operating gadgets and learning new technology within a short span of time. Not a peculiar sight it is, to find a 6-month old familiarising with the “touchscreen” gadgets. Parents too seem to be proud at the child’s “feat.” While encouraging children to explore, parents do not try to inculcate the habits of reading among children. Astonishing but even 14 year olds merrily proclaim that they haven’t read a book for joy or out of curiosity.
Second, the nature of the immediate surroundings of the youngsters. Most of the times, children inculcate the habits which their parents follow and there is no denying this fact. There is ample proof that from a very young age, children try to imitate their parents’ actions and habits. Children with parents who read, who buy books for their kids or takes them to the library, and encourage them to read, are the ones who tend to read the most. However, most of the parents themselves do not read. Moreover, some of the children might be limited by their buying capacity or access to public libraries.
Third, increase in the number of distractions. Reading requires one to sit still, be quiet and concentrate. Due to rapid growth of technology, we are surrounded various gadgets which demand attention from us. Be it checking on social media every 5-10 minutes or replying to group messages on WhatsApp, there is always something around us that will take away our attention. Youngsters, with their ear-phone plugged ears, derive pleasure by indulging themselves in these activities – posting pictures, updating their status, tweeting their activities throughout the day. When the pleasure factor has shifted away from books, the task of staying away from gadgets and spending some quality time with a book is almost impossible for these youngsters.
The last factor which also plays a major role in deciding not just the importance of reading as a hobby, but any other hobby is the attitude towards education. Right from the days of primary school, children are over-burdened with homework and tuitions. Parents over-emphasise the importance of grades and expect their children from indulging in any activity other than studies once they’re back home. Parents might consider reading for pleasure as a “waste of time”. Youngsters are under a lot of pressure to perform well and being youngsters, they give into the pressure and the value of books is lost in the process.
As the number of libraries are dwindling, the concept of reading books as a hobby is going downhill. Children find social networking sites, television shows, and the internet more interesting than opening a tome, written by a person hundreds of years ago. This does not mean that people are losing their thirst for knowledge. Reading still plays a crucial role in today’s society. A well-read person is still, and for the foreseeable future, will be highly respected. The total book publishing revenue is expected to witness a growth of 1.7% CAGR over the next 5 years, but the e-book revenue will see a 10.4% CAGR. The future for the publishing industry does not look bleak at the moment. Here’s to hoping that reading as a habit, and thus the publishing industry, shall experience a resurgence. Cheers!
-Anil Kamath PGPM 2016-18