Is Reading At Risk of Oblivion?
edited: Monday, March 07, 2005
By Alvin C. Romer
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, March 07, 2005
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This is an assessment of whether books are still in vogue in lieu of the Internet and current technological advances in the literary world
Is Reading At The Risk of Oblivion?
Recently I accepted to be the keynote speaker for a literary forum that focused on the importance of reading and whether it has become a lost art. Several questions were thrown about in reference to whether reading was losing luster to the Internet and the advent of e-books and its implication of being the wave of the future. Being an advocate of literature and literacy at all levels I found this to be a little off-centered and wanted to see if others shared my opinionated views. I based my speech on those questions and others that I implored throughout the presentation such as, Why do books matter, what books should we read, and why should we continue to read them? Despite proponents that feel that people do not read anymore, or they are not reading as much because they can now go online to read a book, I feel that nothing compares to considering the source and loving the feel of the real thing! Stephen King notwithstanding, he who felt the need to include one of his latest books a while back to be obtained online BEFORE it was actually published mainstream, may have started a trend but it’s still a long way off in my opinion. In this essay I will give answers to all of the queries above and personalize my theories in support of the pursuit of knowledge, among other motives.
Why books still matter to me
Go into any library and you’d know that Dewey’s decimal system still hold sway. You will also note that libraries are more resistant to changes that modern technology has wrought, but has embraced the Internet in a lot of what they consider to be innovative ways in how they now can be of service to all patrons. When I visit my local library, I’m usually there to do research or CHECK OUT A BOOK! The love of reading should always be a labor of love. As Iong as I can remember books were not only a part of my daily existence, but I thrived on them. As a shy and introverted kid, I used books as escapism to a world of my own with no compromise, conditional liability or expectations I couldn’t render. I read recently that reading may be dying, albeit a slow one. When I accepted the invitation to talk on this subject I was already chomping at the bit, for I felt too, that books should never go out of style! I’m aware that literature as we’ve always known it has changed and is continually evolving. Literature as defined by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) includes novels, short stories, poetry, plays and narratives. In assessing the data compiled to suggest that reading had lost the interest of readers who indeed take it serious, I was appalled by the percentages after doing a little bit of research. NEA also included in a survey that rendered adults who read ‘literature’ fell below the 50 percentile. I encountered such mind-boggling statements as: “Reading literature in the conventional sense is fading rapidly”; “books are being replaced by the internet”; and, “literary reading as a leisure activity will virtually disappear in a half a century”, et al.
Without further ado, I begged to differ and sought alternatives to refute such nonsense. I sought audiences with my peers, talked to authors who still believe that a good book is worth the time they can convince you to read what they write, and most importantly I embarked on my own research methodology to determine some validity to this subject. I used my company, ACR Data Research, Inc. to spearhead initiatives, and a part of this undertaking is a survey I’m conducting to see why men are not reading romance novels. I found to my surprise that the nation’s heaviest readers live in less populated states where perhaps there’s nothing else to do but read. These states comprised of the Mountain States, i.e., Montana-Wyoming through Nevada to New Mexico, and that some 65% of women read literature and men bringing up the rear at 35%. I found too, that reading levels are way down and that mainstream America has more than a love affair with the internet and the world-wide-web. It would then be correct to assume that cyberspace have deemed this medium the reason for suggesting that books are in trouble of losing out to technological advances, etc.
What books should be read, and why read them?
Books are not just for ‘information’. They are entry into another (and another’s) world. Any book that teases the imaginative vices to invoke an opening of the mind should be dealt with for interpretive awareness. Be it for pleasure or for knowledge, we should want to expand our intelligence quotients. Read to give any advantages to your station in life, and read to take the pressure off of everyday living! I base my theorem on how much literature has traversed to encompass legions of ethnic followers that have embraced works from people they identify with to tell the stories that are indigenous to them. When I went to my writing colleagues I asked simple questions and wanted to get good opinionated views on despite the internet age whether reading, writing and books still held a bottom line to their involved mettle. To all of them they expressed overwhelming favoritism for a book’s longevity and vitality. Author, Edwidge Danticat who resides in the same neighborhood as I do in Miami (Little Haiti), has gone on record to say that, “nothing compares to sitting down, or better yet, lying sown with a very good book and just losing yourself in its pages”. Not only do I echo her sentiment, but revel in the fact that books will always be synonymous with allowing both author and reader to reflect upon the human conditions, each with a personal image of time and space. They give a sense of allowing us to explore and organize insights and information to savor knowledge and to interact with it in a measured and highly individual manner. Take that aspect from it and we impersonalized the act of reading and render it abstract. I emphatically say that NO! reading is not at risk with the state of African-American literature yearly reaching unparalleled heights. Our writers have challenged status quo and continue to flood the market win all genres seeking equal parity and to be heard.
We live in a weird world these days, and no doubt literature, like much else this is good and tangible has taken a hit. Nothing stays the same and time waits for no one. I profess to be a bibliomaniac with literal references from many disciplines, and hope that you feel as I do about books -- that they let our imaginations travel to all the places distance and obscure; that they give voices and faces to the most silent and unimaginable...reminding us that we are not alone in our loneliness, and that they rearrange reality in a satisfying way where the mundane rise up and redefine vivacity. I tend to think some people have truly forgotten how to read, and must open more books for all things literary. We must never forget how ambiguity plays a part in this, and that verbal seduction is still in vogue when reading is for pleasure. In closing, it’s a given that the pace of contemporary life makes it harder for people to find time to read novels now, but that should only make novels seem more necessary, the reading experience even more precious and pleasurable and nourishing than ever. I think E.L. Doctorow said it best – “It’s like driving a car at night and never seeing further than your headlights, but somehow managing to make the whole trip that way”. I surmise that a good book is so easy to fall in love with…. and when you do it goes with you everywhere, fills up every corner of your existence and takes over your imagination. But then again, you know that if you are a reader!