That’s the thing with books. They allow you to travel without moving your feet’
This quote from famous author Jhumpa Lahiri aptly describes the magical journey of reading books. If you ask the average person today, “When was the last time you read a book?” the majority of people who respond may be in a difficult situation.
They may not be able to remember the last time they held a book in their hands or managed to read one. The aversion to books seems to be the case with most people these days. A look at our peer group would lead us to believe that so-called “bibliophiles” are in the minority. However, book sales have increased during lockdown, so let’s not completely discount books in favor of visual media.
The change in the culture of reading books
With the increased accessibility to technology and a plethora of other distractions, reading books had taken a back seat in today’s world. This does not mean that the information is not consumed, on the contrary, there is a lot of information that is consumed.
This consumption of information has changed form from traditional paper or books to apps, e-books and audio books, to name a few. However, there has been an increase in the culture of reading. Book sales have been up, ever so slightly year over year, and we have to thank the rise of OTT/major movie studios for pushing sales up.
The world that once shunned superhero movies and fantasy movie adaptations is now embracing it. Superhero films dominate the box office, followed by films based on fantasy or science fiction books. This media frenzy has led people to buy the books/comics these movies and series are based on to find out what happened.
Our souls crave instant gratification, no one wants to wait a week for the next episode, let alone a year for the next season. The FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) culture of books is a legitimate fear and does exist. A need to know information before others, or at least on the same level as others, can actually decide whether your peers take you seriously or not. OTT stole our time, especially during the lockdown period, and everyone juggled between working from home and working from home.
OTT content consumption accelerated because we had nothing better to do. According to research by Statista, streaming video-on-demand services have overtaken television consumption in India. However, people grew tired of watching the “idiot box” (as television was commonly called) and preferred to pursue hobbies and began to pursue their passions. People wanted to spend their time doing something that would bring them happiness and satisfaction. This pursuit of happiness has caused people to reinvest their time in books.
The relevance of reading books in modern times
The video content industry has encouraged consumers to stay on their platforms rather than engage in other activities. It happens so often that we sit with our phones and end up watching random videos rather than working or spending time on productive tasks. Even though people tend to watch videos that impart necessary knowledge on various topics, the amount of information consumed is such that no one really remembers anything.
Thriving in the digital age, we are constantly bombarded with multiple communications.
Developing a reading habit can be extremely beneficial in a multitude of situations-
- In an ever-changing age, reading helps us stay connected to our roots with more and more books being published based on mythologies.
- Books tend to break up the hectic pace of our daily lives and help us focus.
- For bibliophile souls, they provide comfort and happiness.
- Books can stimulate learning and creativity by forcing us to imagine scenarios in our own way.
- Reading not only helps us to become better informed, but also to refine our character traits.
- Getting lost in the stories relieves anxieties and the process is therapeutic.
- As our teachers have said, reading improves communication, confidence and boosts morale.
- More importantly, books help us slow down and appreciate the finer things in life.
Ways to Cultivate a Reading Habit
There are a few simple tips that can help anyone develop a reading habit:
- Devote time to reading one page a day. Just one. Over time, you will definitely want to keep turning these pages.
- Plan to spend time reading at a specific time every day. For example, at night before sleeping. Make it a habit.
- Look for books that inspired famous shows or movies. (The story in the books is always different from what you see on the screen)
- Take the book you want to read everywhere.
- Set a high goal for the number of books you would like to read that year.
- Join a book club/group.
- Visit bookstores. Seriously. It can be a real therapeutic experience.
- If a single book seems intimidating, start with something small, a comic book or a collection of short stories.
I believe, like many others, that books act like a getaway drug. Especially during times of extreme stress, like the one we are going through now. There are a few studies that have shown that reading helps fight loneliness and other psychological issues.
Many of us, myself included, are turning to blind consumption of content available on OTT platforms. Watching series 24/7 only to find yourself with a void after the end of the series and desperately looking for the next one to fill that void. Some of us, to combat loneliness, have the television playing in the background just to have something distract us from our thoughts.
These are methods that can help us in the short term, but prove to be quite damaging in the longer term. OTT is for entertainment purposes only. Binge-watching does not help you, in fact, it is very detrimental to physical and mental health. It reduces reaction times, makes you lazy, increases the need for instant gratification, and worst of all, it makes you less productive.
Books, on the other hand, are another story. Reading a fantasy novel (for example), even the same series you watched on TV, will give you a much more rewarding experience. Reading forces you to imagine the written word, you are transported to the world that the author has set up.
Soon you will be walking the path the author is leading you to, I’m sure many of you have at times followed a book’s instructions or imagined yourself doing it.
“Walking through the lavender field, Hannah ran her hands casually over the flowers, basking in the golden aura of the setting sun. The cool breeze gently caressed her soft brown hair as she walked aimlessly unconscious. As she reached the end of the field, walking into the setting sun, she brought her hand up to her face and took a deep breath, savoring the delicate scent of the lavender flowers that Hannah knows she won’t be able to. do not forget. “
There is a huge difference between what you imagined while reading this and if you were watching it on screen. I can confidently say that anyone who has read this description has almost smelled those lavender flowers, when it would have been a fleeting five-second gunshot. The habit of reading books is also educational, people tend to remember the shape of memories better with word association.
Every great book, replica, or even movie has a memorable quote, which was probably first written down on paper. A huge book may seem like an overwhelming task, but as mentioned, start with one page. Keep reading regularly.
Even the winner of a marathon started with a single step like the others. Although audio books are available, the touch and feel associated with holding the hard copy in your hand, the satisfaction of turning a page, is something no Kindle, e-book or audio book can replace!
(By Mahesh Ratnam Rajan, author)