Is reading still relevant in the digital age?

Are books becoming extinct?

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Technology is constantly developing

In 2007, books were next on the list of things that seemingly needed updating, in the form of the Kindle. On its release day it sold out in five and a half hours, and remained out of stock for the next five months – disheartening avid book readers everywhere, including myself.

Would physical books become a thing of the past?

Admittedly, there are some benefits to owning a Kindle:

  • they can hold around 3,500 books (yes, really)
  • they’re portable and lightweight
  • e-books are usually cheaper, with some being free!

But there are cons too:

  • the latest Kindle will set you back £409.99 (yes, really)
  • you have to charge it
  • it’s ok if you drop a book – it’s so not ok if you drop your Kindle

If it’s not evident already, I’m slightly bias. So we put it to a vote.

I found this really interesting. Not only does this show the wide range of materials we’re reading, but also the difference in what we each consider ‘authentic’ enough to warrant reading physically – for these two it’s illustrated books and magazines, for others this may be different, especially for those who voted for Kindle.

One of my favourite authors, Stephen King, once said, “Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”

Maybe I experience these ‘dead spots’ more often than others – how do people manage to get through the torture of a doctor’s waiting room without a good book? Yet, more worryingly, maybe people aren’t necessarily reading books for pleasure any more.

Busy schedules

For some, finding the time to read is difficult. If you’re a university student you’ll be well aware of the dreaded recommended reading list: a set of at least 15 heavy (often dull) textbooks that your tutor thinks you should read – all before your first lecture, of course. It’s hard enough to make time for reading the books you want to, let alone the ones you have to.

Even if you’re not expected to read through a million textbooks, life manages to get in the way. Jobs, children, friends, and various other hobbies can steal your precious time – I once attempted to read a book whilst climbing 20 flights of steps on the Stairmaster at the gym. Once and attempted being the optimum words.

In some ways reading the material you want to has become almost a rare luxury. More often, people are coming to me (designated book lady) asking to borrow a book because they’re going on holiday. Can we only truly immerse ourselves in reading when we have a week or two soaking up the sun and sipping on a cocktail?

Is it possible to come home after a long day at work and read for pleasure? Apparently not.

Why do we need to read?

Ok, so not everyone likes reading (???) but, when you consider that there’s 168 hours in a week, it’s a little scary that we can’t seem to manage a mere few minutes of reading. Aside from enjoyment, there are lots of reasons why we need to read:

  • To exercise your brain. Studies show that mentally stimulating your brain can slow the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. An active brain is a powerful brain.
  • It reduces stress! Even just a few pages after a particularly taxing day can help you relax and wind down.
  • To expand your knowledge. Reading often gives you an insight into all sorts of areas and topics. Plus, the more you read, the more words will absorb into your vocabulary, making you sound – and feel – eminently perspicacious.
  • To improve concentration. Instead of checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat etc every few minutes – read! Constantly switching between platforms lowers our productivity and attention span, as well as raising stress levels.

In conclusion: Read.

My challenge

If this still isn’t the hobby for you, or you still don’t believe you have enough time, let me do it for you. This year I am taking part in a 2016 book challenge, containing 42 different requirements for each read, for example, ‘a book by an author over the age of 65’, ‘a young adult fantasy novel’ etc.

Along with completing the challenge I’m also attempting to review each book on my blog, and explain how I feel when reading – Do I feel more relaxed? Is my vocabulary expanding? Am I less stressed?

By doing this I hope to show how reading isn’t just relevant, but necessary in our busy lifestyles.