The Changing Relationship Between the Book and the Reader

World Book Day- for those who have experienced prolonged courtship with books know that it is Friendship Day in its truest essence. Though how many out there realize the meaning of a book, is a question, the answer to which is not encouraging. There has been a fall in the reading habit, the library culture, domestic libraries and studies, inclination towards printed hard copies of books, and even in the writing style of the substance used in the books’ plots. In rather simpler terms, the books have fallen.

Let’s begin with the writing style of the books today. The books in recent times have failed to ignite the minds of young readers. The books of this century have little to no profundity, and it saddens me. Having done so much in terms of scientific progression, and communal protocols but the books published in our time just lay primitively out in front of you, sweet and simple. The books intended for today’s youth are not full of underlying, rooted, latent meanings like they should be. Commenting (not!) on popular books, the likes of “Hunger Games” and “Divergent” as not perceptively appalling, but there are better, more ignored books out there. Even more so, magnum opus of the likes of  ‘The portrait of a Lady’ and ‘Animal Farm’ are inadvertently looked over because youth mistakenly are under the impression that these bestsellers are monotonous and for elderly because they’re read and analyzed in classrooms.

Even the classic genre of Romance has gone downhill. It’s not that romance is repugnant, but to appreciate the kind of sweet, kind romances that focus more on the building up of the relationship rather than just two hot guys fighting over one whiny girl is long lost. The kind of hidden deep routed words that echo within you’ve even days after you’ve been done with the books. Another thing: what elucidates a book as a – classic? Who decides what books we inflate to the level of a classic? “A classic is a classic if it is well-written, speaks to the human condition, and has depth,” my college professor reiterates.

And it is no news when there is no culture of reading, there cannot be many libraries either. The (not so) very brilliant question put forward here is “Why go to a library?”. Well, considering that all the researches are on the Internet and all the books either on Amazon, Kindle or in your nearest commercial bookstore, the question holds ground. Library culture is gradually dying in the current scenario, not only in a particular city, state or country, but also in one’s mind. The declining reading habit in the current generation is not only a matter of concern just because we are not inculcating the habit in ourselves but also because we are not going to make the next generation inherit this habit. The need of the time demands one to take the pledge to save this declining culture and promoting reading habits not only in kids but grown ups as well.

Decay of library institution is the most regrettable phenomenon of the modern age. Dawn of corporate civilization, advent of modern technology, diversified means of information and luxuriated life style have restricted the use of libraries. No doubt, libraries have been playing a central role in the intellectual advancement and human development for many centuries. However, their monopoly over the cosmos of knowledge is crippling day by day.

Digital technology, that has precipitated a variety of alternative sources of information, is frequently referred as the major factor, which has challenged the authority of libraries. The underlying idea is to examine the issue in all the necessary dimensions in order to be able to suggest a viable course for the future to consolidate and accelerate the usage of libraries.

And this reduced reading habit has permeated to the domestic levels as well. People would use the space in their home for some other purpose, and rather use plush furniture rather than establishing a study or buying bookshelves. The concept of drawing room libraries is long forgotten. It is always interesting to find someone having a great collection of masterpieces ranging from the subjects poles apart, that certainly is a treat to eyes and for a novice it remains a matter of great admiration that how learned is the man, he is visiting and how difficult it would be to crack a deal with this person. To my utter grief, the books filled with every single word coming out from the heart of author are being used as a tool to crack a deal, as if the author’s thoughts were nothing but a hard-nut. I would be unfair if I generalize my statement to one and all but isn’t that a reality applied to most of those who fancy a drawing room library. To me, a collection in a bedroom or certainly in a reading-room is far more meaningful. You call it a fashion, a status symbol or merely a show-piece but books have always been an eye- catcher and something that adds to the intelligence quotient of the owner, how nice it would be if all that stored in those books reflect on the ideas and intellect of the people carrying the print load.

The prime suspect for the fall of the book culture is probably the e-book. This debate is taking place since the advent of the E-Book. So how do we say which side is taking over? I feel that the scale is balanced for both the sides. As each coin has two sides, so has this argument. It is ultimately the reader’s choice that makes the difference. With the growing market of books, the argument is ultimately put to test by the reader by the choices he makes. If the reader feels that the physical book is more appealing to him, then that is what he buys and the same holds true for E-Books as well.

This is the reason that even though the concept of virtual books is growing and flourishing, the brick and mortar stores selling physical books have also grown at the same time. The only issue here is that earlier, while books had the entire market only themselves, they now have to split it with their virtual counterparts-cum-competitors.

And because of the cumulative impact of all the above factors, the essence of what a book really is, is lost. A book has been reduced to a mode of entertainment (there too, it faces a strong challenge from the Internet and television), and only a fraction of the entire reading populace see it as a companion.

Suchit Mathur

Writer is a student. Reading and writing are his passion.

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 3 Issue 25, April 2016)

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