The Reading Problem
I’ve been a heavy reader for as long as it was possible, taught myself the skill by looking at picture books and playing Pokemon Red; I’ve always loved it, always will, and to me, it is the highest form of entertainment. That isn’t a statement I can defend, nor will I try; at this point its faith.
A heavy reader like me has no problem getting lost in a book, a movie is imagined, played out inside the reader’s head; one that can be paused, dissected, rewound, re-experienced at the reader’s pleasure. I can interact with a book all day; when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out I sat at my kitchen table until I finished it, 12 hours straight. There was a bathroom near me; can’t remember using it, but the only thing I remember other than the book is eating a single salami sandwich, so I probably didn’t have to.
There is no reading problem for me, but most people aren’t like me; not everyone can get lost in words like the Roadrunner does in paintings. Entertainment is the world’s industry because it offers something that appeals to everyone; books, once a powerhouse, have inarguably experienced a decline in popularity as of late. They may claim responsibility for some (a heavy majority) of Hollywood’s well-known exploits but I don’t even need to go into who’s winning that battle.
The reality is that a credit in the credits, ‘based on…’, doesn’t mean much. The reality is that reading is one of many forms of entertainment human civilization has come up with over the years; nothing really special, an old practice, but there are older. Reading was respected because it was the first way we figured out to make knowledge last longer than us; now that EVERYTHING is digital, recorded, accessible, is there a need?
My answer is yes, and I have more than a stomp of a foot to go along with it.
People are reading now more than ever before. My book sales wouldn’t tell that story, but everyone’s smartphone is stuck to their hand like a growth; what do we do on these devices? Some play games, others watch movies, almost all communicate…though there is essentially an infinite number of ways to occupy oneself through the App Store, 90 percent of them require the ability to read for someone to use and enjoy properly. No matter how much people hate to admit it, they are readers; what is the problem, then?
Isolation is a natural product of reading, but if someone prefers to be connected that isn’t a good sell. Books have to be a static medium, they can’t just change, they’re not live-streamed. What a reader gets in their hand at first is what they have in their hands at the end, and in a world as dynamic as ours, that does seem out of place. Books can’t change what they are but that doesn’t mean they have to keep being what they were.
The traditional relationship between author and reader is not sacred. Nothing man-made is. There’s no sense in riding a dying wave when all I see is an ocean of chop. Books will always have limits, but they need covers, otherwise, the pages would go everywhere. What’s in-between those, though, is endless room for innovation; I’m excited for what’s to come, and anybody who reads should be as well.