As an internet-addicted millennial, I’m well aware that the printed word is dying. Our generation is going to be the death of printed magazines and newspapers. I haven’t read a newspaper in years, but thanks to Google News, Digg, Reddit, NowPublic and others; I’m still as informed as I was when I used to keep scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings.
But what I didn’t know is that books are already toast. Steve Jobs recently told the New York Times his opinion on Amazon’s Kindle electronic book reader.
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”
Will Pate, If People Don’t Read, Why Keep Writing?
As an Internet-addicted millenial, I’m also deeply addicted to the reading. I read. A lot. I read because I love learning about things and books give me the most bang for the buck when it comes to established topics, thanks to the research and thought people have put into their books, and I read because I love having fantastic conversations with fellow bookworms. Granted, I read more than almost everyone I know, but most of my friends read a lot too. And if we’re this weird geeky island in a sea of people who’d rather watch television or video and be constrained to the speed and order at which someone communicates, then that’s the way it is.
I don’t think the picture is as bleak as Steve Jobs paints it, though. People read and write, but they read and write mostly light material: e-mail, blog posts, things like that. A Vision of Students Today (video below) makes that point very well. Jump to 1:58 if you want to see just that bit.
So people read a lot, but it’s like what people would get if they read only magazine or newspaper articles. It’s like snacking instead of eating your vegetables. Vegetables, properly done, can be quite yummy. Books, too. But the good thing about it is that many books are going online, whether it’s because publishers and authors are trying new ways to reach more people, or even people like me are writing online because of the quick feedback of the Internet.
The printed word isn’t dying. It’s going online. It’s moving onward and upward. And if that forces writers and publishers and readers (who might also be writers and publishers in this new world) to figure out new models for the way we do things, great!