Opinion: How has reading changed over the years?

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By: Lilly Holt

Kate Couch/ The Broadside

 

Yesterday I realized that I charge my phone, computer, eBook, headphones, and my mini diffuser with the same cord. This mass wave of change known as technology influence has affected so many things around us including the age-old habit of reading. Something that has been around so long you would assume that it would stand the test of time. Surprising or not technology has got ahold of readers and changed how they read books.

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Overall reading from a physical book is down from the year 2000 (The New Yorker has written several articles about it). With technology, movies, and video games to distract us, it’s hard to carve out the time to sit down and read. Though many people enjoy reading according to this study done last year a reported 72% of American adults reported reading one book in 2019. This is not a crazy difference compared to 79% in 2011.

 

It seems like reading doesn’t occur as much as it used to and our world is damned to be mindless robots within the next century. But not everyone agrees with this.

In an article by Erica Waggner journalist for BBC, she explains how she doesn’t think this correlation is necessarily true. “The fact that we spend more and more time online may mean that we are increasingly distracted from reading… but it can also mean that readers have more avenues to find the stories they want and need.”

Just because physical book reading is down doesn’t mean that people have stopped reading interlay. Audible (an audiobook service) was launched by Amazon in 2000 and by 2016 was a 2.1 billion dollar business. That same year only 1.8 billion hardcover books were sold. So even though people may not be buying the hardcover copies they still are buying the book. 2016 was a big year for audible books in other ways too. In 2016, 51,000 audiobooks were published, up from 7,200 in 2011 according to PBS.

What about the eBook?

Photoshop photo of woman eReading By: Miche Little

In 2019 25% of American adults reported reading at least one eBook. In 1971 the Declaration of Independence was put in “e” form making it the first-ever eBook! Since then, digitizing books became popular making them easier and easier to access. In 2011 the Amazon Kindle was released making a device specifically for E-reading. With the iPad growing in accessibility and E-reading on your phone become easier those sales of the Kindle have plummeted but its impact was still there.  The bottom line with eBooks is simple though, it won’t replace the paper book.

Mom and pop book stores are closing all over the country and physical book sales are down. Be this as it may, I don’t think this will ever fully replace physical reading. There is a large community out there that loves the feeling of a “real” book and I don’t think that will change for a long time.

 

I stopped by a few local bookshops this week and they were all rather busy which is great for them (but bad for an interview.)  I managed to get a few words from Sarah who works at RoundAbout books in Bend OR. She thinks reading has changed but knows there are people out there who, “value going the extra step to get a real book from a place like this.” “If people are reading at least they are reading.”

If you are looking for a new book to read, Sarah did recommend a book to me, “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawange. She says it’s an amazing book on the perspective of life that everyone should read.

Photo By: Kate Couch RoundAbout Books Bend OR

 

Not everyone is so forward in thinking when it comes to the change in reading though. Jeremiah Walls a fellow COCC student thinks that reading has changed and won’t ever go back. “I think people are getting more dumb…No one ever reads anymore so much to the point I wonder if they know how” Walls explained to me that he loves reading but seldom finds a peer that relates. “Just because some people E-read and listen to audiobooks doesn’t mean reading was like it used to be. I think overall reading doesn’t happen as it used to and it’s sad.”

There is no question about it reading has changed and unfortunately reading popularity has defiantly declined over the past couple of decades. The progression of technology and the new ways we receive information is not slowing down anytime soon. It’s important to keep in mind that there will always be people out there that love to read and sharing that love with others is very beneficial no matter how people read books on the screen or with a hard book in hand.

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