Monday, February 2, 2009

Possible Reasons for the Decline of Readership.

Note: I'm a bit late to this blog so I may not even be posting correctly...

One of the trickier sort of questions someone may ask you is the sort to which you clearly know the answer but it is hard for you to articulate. We had one such question in class. Why don't people read books as much as they used to? Thankfully, I was able to suppress my nature of bluring out "I don't know" as I did when my parents disciplined me as young boy and saved myself some embarrassment. Hopefully I can express my thoughts on the subject in type better than simply labeling literature "hard to relate to."

Did people really read more in the past than they do today? Could it just be a myth? I would like to see some numbers, but I dont think the literacy rate of one hundred years ago would really vibe with the idea that people read more often then. Maybe there was a group of people who read wanton amount of literature. So much that they make us think reading was pandemic. I think its important to challenge the question in the first place, but in this case, I have no answers. Only a hunch based on vague memories of American History.

Are books really the supreme medium? Are books worth more than film, the internet, art, music or even comic books and sports? I guess one could point to the large amount of masterpieces existent in books and even the historic importance of others such as The Holy Bible. Art is not really seen as a rival to books since so many see them as complements to each other. The "educated man" can be often thought a connoisseur of both art and literature. Music is such a part of us that it seems crazy when a peer cares little for any musician, and today's mainstream music is so disposable at times we leave it in the background thumping away without analyzing and breaking down its parts.

How can film be so popular and be so intellectually corrupt? There aren't many mind blowing movies and even less TV shows. Its important to note I'm talking about the mainstream here, or I would have to write pages and pages talking about it. One of the more ironic comments I've heard about the comic book medium is that it is quite base. These comments usually come from someone who is wholly ignorant of the medium that is continuously plundered for ideas by Hollywood and TV. Shows like "Lost" ape so much from comic books it could be called plagiarism. Cinema and TV have remained incredibly popular since they are relatively "easy" to digest and have been marketed masterfully. The hype summer movies and new seasons of shows get is impossible to ignore. Even with all its flaws cinema and TV do provide visual spectacles.

I'm writing this the day after a solid Super Bowl Sunday. A book can be a page turner, but somewhere out there, someone knows the ending. In sports, nothing can be predicted. Spectacular feats of athleticism spellbind everyone. How far did your jaw drop when Usain Bolt absolutely torched the competition looking like Mercury? How loud was the cheering for Lezak when he beat out the French for the gold medal to keep Michael Phelp's dream of breaking Spitz's record? The whole world chants and sings and hollers during the World Cup. 715 Million people watched Italy win over France in the 2006 finals. About one seventh of the world. No book can match how epic a sport can be.

Books may have been the premier medium in a time where all other medium either didn't exist or were limited by technology, but today, books undeniably come up short when measured in some areas against other mediums. Books have the advantages of being intensely personal and of being around for thousands of years allowing for an unmatched scope of topics to be read. The internet looks like it can do everything all the others can and more, allowing to connect to almost anybody with a computer. It is absolutely revolutionary and I don't doubt it will be the most important development in human history since electricity.

In the end, it may be that the book medium is a limited one that is kept relevant by its history and usage in scholarship. Maybe Shakespeare would have loved to lay down some rhymes on a fat DJ Premier beat rather than leave it on paper. Maybe Marx would have preferred to blog his Communist Manifesto rather than put it in a book. Maybe we should not fret the lack of usage of a medium when we have not finished realizing the potential of others.

1 comment:

  1. Yes yes, the past few years have been terrible 'Hollywood' film years. I agree [As a film major, it's highly disappointing!] Same goes with the telly. And since this isn't a film studies course, I won't even go into the "film canon" and what has been worth note these past few years.

    I think most everything has already been told- beginning to end. Sports are as predictable as a book. Someone wins, someone loses, and someone will get injured. Same with a book- it will start with one Letter and end with one Punctuation Mark. It's everything in the middle that keeps the Sports Fans going to games, and keeps the Readers in the books. I'm not into sports- so everything you said (save the Phelps comment) meant absolutely nothing to me. Now if I were to sit a person down and tell them about everything from my favorite book "The Loved One," would it mean anything to them [if they had not read it, or even heard of its author]? I see where you are leading the point of focus, but I don't think they can be compared fairly- I think it discredits both of them in some way.

    Shakespeare might have been an amazing rapper- but he used what was available. We have so many ways of expressing ourselves (text messaging, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, email-little snippets here and there) so it's easy to look down upon the book. But I think as long as people are reading [in some capacity] there will be books. I don't think books are the "supreme" medium. I think storytelling is. Writing, art, music, tweeting,'s all storytelling. Because when the electricity goes out and your iPod is dead- what do you do? I bet you tell some story.