Three little words guaranteed to chill any author. The first time I heard these words was in the context of a conversation I was having about my upcoming first self-published book. I was momentarily at a loss for a reply.
I had encountered an old friend while waiting in a check out line. During the usual ‘what have you been up to” banter I mentioned that I had just uploaded my first book for publication. She seemed to be really delighted and made several positive comments including hopes for robust sales. When I said that the book would soon be available on Amazon and offered to send the link she dropped the three word bomb. “I don’t read.” My first impulse was to ask, “are you confessing a lack of interest or a lack of ability?”
But I resisted and listened while she gave her reasons for eschewing the printed word. And her reasons were all valid from her point of view. The pervasiveness of social networking and the time required to keep up with hundreds of “friends” scattered across the country, Mc-news-nuggets streaming in from all quarters, screaming to be acknowledged, on line gaming, recording and arranging schedules to watch favorite TV shows. All of this piled on top of an eight hour work day and the time that had to be devoted to interacting with family left very little opportunity for the relatively leisurely pursuit of an easy chair and a good book.
Since that day i have heard those same three words from a variety of people including a close relative who actually purchased copies of each of my now nine published works. I asked her for feed back on one of the books and she said, “I haven’t read them. I don’t read books. i just wanted to have them because you wrote them.”
I fear that we are losing something very important when we turn away from the printed word. We live in a fast paced world. Our senses are continually being bombarded with constant streams of disjointed information. Books allow us to slow down and to absorb input in a more even flow. There is a certain satisfying feel to holding a book, a tangible object, warm and friendly, in one’s hands and to interact with all the possible worlds presented within those printed pages.
Another thing to consider is that printed material represents our best storage system for the vast store of human experience. If I were to give you instructions for achieving everything your heart desired, recorded on an Edison wax cylinder, and an unlimited line of credit at Fry’s Electronics, you’d be no further ahead than before you received the instructions. You’d be able to hold them in your hand but would lack a means to access the information.
Consider for a moment all the forms of information retrieval that have come and gone during your lifetime. Those storage and playback systems are mostly curios today but the bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440 can still be read today.
So do yourself a favor. Revisit low tech. Pick up a book, select a comfortable chair in a spot with good light and simply relax. Let those pages transport you to worlds that can only be created within your mind. You’ll thank me for this advice
As a reader, those three words freeze my soul and make my heart ache. I can never understand how people can’t get lost in the written word the way that I can. Language can be so beautiful, especially when an author can bend it and tame it to create fluidity and imagery. I love language. Some people just can’t see what readers and writers see in words. I feel sorry for them.
Thank you for your comment. My mother used to say that a person who could read but didn’t had no advantage over the person who could not read. There are enough people willing to limit our intake of knowledge without us having to do it for ourselves.
You’re welcome. And beautifully said.
I am currently in my 20 somethingth reading of To Kill a Mockingbird. There is just something about a book. . .I have books on my iPad, but they don’t “feel” the same. I want pages to touch and turn. I want accidental creases in the binding where I have read and re-read my favorite parts. I want to be able to fall asleep with the book on my chest and the words in my mind and not worry about killing the battery.
And beyond the tactile appeal, research has proven that retention of material is enhanced by having it in print form rather than digital. Books actually make for better students.
On the other hand, a dumbed-down populace has lowered expectations and is less likely to complain about how they are governed.