As I sat on quite a busy flight I casually glanced at the seats nearest me as one does when trying to stifle the boredom of being delayed on the tarmac, I couldn’t help but notice everyone seemed engrossed in programmes/ films on their ipads or phones, it being a Ryanair flight naturally the entertainment was not provided but clearly everyone had preempted this by downloading on to their various devices.
I had just opted for the hassle-free option of a book, on actual paper – I’m sure others had done the same but no reader was within my sight.
I inwardly wondered if the popularity of reading as a means of entertainment was starting to dwindle. With so many options that require less concentration and demonstrate much less of a time commitment it could be that books are on the decline.
According to a study carried out by the National Literacy Trust in the UK children are reading less than ever before, and girls outnumber boys in terms of reading for pleasure.
Whilst little research is available on reading statistics in Ireland it doesn’t seem that it’s something limited to children and young people, the amount of adults’ reading is also declining with an American study showing the amount of American adults who read books for enjoyment is falling.
With the rising costs of living and household expenditures being pushed to their limits perhaps reading is a luxury for the middle classes who have no issue with spending their disposable income on books, but for many working class families providing their children with books is an added expense that doesn’t always make the cut.
However, the second hand book business is booming in no small part thanks to Oxfam. According to a report by euronews Oxfam sells 60,000 books across 400 shops, with 130 standalone bookshops all over the UK, as well as in Paris and several locations in Ireland; all selling items donated by the public, books make up their largest sales category.
As sustainability and the circular economy becomes more and more of a priority for people, they often think twice about purchasing brand new books, and in addition to the cost of living crisis the price of a new book is also a factor to be considered.
It seems the love of physical books is not going the way of CD’s as some had predicted, there’s something that appeals to us about a space filled with books about the magical aura of libraries about knowledge being in a written form that you can hold between your hands.
So while the length of time we spend reading is in decline a sustainable mindset and sentimentality for books means the physical form of books isn’t going anywhere – it just needs to compete with the 20 second videos that increasingly grab more of our attention.
If TikTok is fast and entertaining then books are the slow and steady grandparent that requires patience for the reward of a well-told story reaching its conclusion, either way both are a form of storytelling – a tradition that will never die out.