It has been argued that we are reading less and the evenings of sitting down with a good book are disappearing. Books sales increased in 2014 so this suggests there isn’t a decline, but merely a change in reading habits. Has new technology transformed the book from the page to the screen? It is an interesting debate and leads on to the bigger question of whether a change in concentration levels has actually altered how people read. Are some people reaching high stress levels at younger ages and is this causing the possible decline in reading?
If a book is powerful, it is often quite hard to put down – you want to read one more page, one more chapter. The most obvious area to investigate when it is suggested that there is a decline in reading is to look at the actual books that are published. A few months ago, Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ caused a storm in the literately world. The pre-release hype and a very famous author led the book to break many sales records already. Although this is possibly a unique example, it does still suggest that books are able to engage the reader. Therefore, perhaps it is the mind that is filled with too much information. Engaging content is received every day via email and come evening, we simply don’t want to take any more in.
Once the day is done and the commute home is finished, it can be quite difficult to digest stimulating content and give it enough attention. The working day varies in length, with some starting at the crack of dawn and not ending until past midnight. The modern day is inundated with information – the report, the industry paper, the 100+ emails, the tweet, the Facebook post and text messages and telephone calls. So it’s possible there is simply no time or energy to enjoy a few pages of a book.
An example of how day to day life is affecting how we read is the rise of novellas. These works of fiction are between 20,000 and 40,000 words in length, making them longer than a short story, but less than a novel. Their popularity does seem to indicate people prefer to read fewer words than before.
A change in how we read and the possible fatigue of the mind cannot be discussed without mentioning television and its power to escape from the real world. It is considered by many a way to relax the mind and it can now be accessed on a phone, tablet or computer. Many younger generations are able to multitask and watch television while accessing messages on a mobile. This is a lot harder to repeat when reading a book.
Books are now available on many electronic devices that are designed to improve the reading experience, but whether this has changed reading habits is still debatable. It is interesting that when on holiday people do still buy over five printed books for the trip. This suggests that work is getting in the way and people do not find the time to relax and enjoy a good read until next to the pool.
Are we more drained?
Some people do seem to reach high stress levels at a younger age. It does depend on the person and what they do for a living, but a number of factors can have an effect. When looking a level deeper, it is possible that those who are unhappy with their job may start to feel drained. There are those who wanted to change profession, but never got round to starting all over again and if someone isn’t enjoying their job, they can get a feeling of regret which can cause a loss in concentration. Even the most ambitious go-getter can eventually feel frustrated and unhappy.
Books are still being printed but people are changing the way they access them and to stimulate curiosity, some books do need a lot of promotion. Some are losing concentration due to distractions and as a result are reading less. Others are receiving mountains of information every day which they struggle to digest. To think clearly, we need to learn to relax and enjoy things again, so it’s best to take some time out and pick up a book.
About the author
Ben V Butler writes for eHotelier’s sister print title EP Business in Hospitality.