Do People Even Read Anymore?
“So, what do you do for work?’
“I’m a writer/editor/[any other book-related occupation].”
“Oh, wow! That must be tough.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, it’s just... Do people even read books anymore?”
If you work anywhere near writing or publishing, the above exchange is probably a familiar one that, in the past, you’ve likely responded to with some feelgood answer along the lines of: “Yes, absolutely people still read! Books are a hundred billion-dollar international industry! Publishing has been around for several centuries now! I myself quite literally make my living working with books!”
But it is with a heavy heart I must inform you that the answer to this question as of today is no--people do not read books anymore, at all, for any reason. Reading is dead.
There must have been a morning recently when everyone, everywhere woke up and had the same exact thought: fuck reading books. And we're not just talking about reading the classics; we're talking about your self-help books, your grandma’s smutty romance novellas, contemporary nonfiction books, picture books, those mysterious books you find in odd places in public with confidently prophetic titles like “9 Reasons You're GOING to Burn in Hell”--we shunned them all. Literary asceticism is now the new black, and it’s not just a phase.
Of course, you’re wondering why. Well, the simple truth is that, despite all of the numbers indicating otherwise, we’re just not into books anymore. Much like corporate Twitter accounts using children’s slang to establish their “hipness” in the marketplace or guys wearing boat shoes when they should be wearing loafers, at some recent point in history, reading books became tacky, outdated, passé. Why read books when you could do literally anything else instead, including but not limited to:
It’s actually pretty amazing how rapidly the book industry devolved into irrelevance. It started slowly--though unfortunately we can’t blame the Millennials™ this time--and then, if I blinked, I would’ve missed it; what was an over one hundred billion dollar industry at the beginning of this year had spun out into total dilapidation by brunch on Sunday. (I personally think it had a lot to do with our collective guilt about preferring physical books over digital ones. What were we supposed to do when producing real books meant destroying natural resources and our planet, but reading e-books meant hating our lives? The only good solution was to do away with books entirely.)
To be honest with myself, I guess after several millennia of being a major mode of communication and tradition, it makes sense that books--those poor, weary relics of antiquity--would finally be laid to a universal rest by a human race of over seven billion people. If you think about it, the entire concept of writing and sharing stories in general is absurd; no one really needs to express their innermost thoughts and perspectives on life and what it is to live in a medium that can be adapted in countless ways to resonate with human beings the world over. In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says that writing and reading “deepen and widen our sense of life” and they “feed the soul”; well, we have robots for that now. Why should we take the time to read and write deep and meaningful experiences when we could stuff ourselves full of cheap, easy 24-hour news instead? I don’t think we should. It’s positively geriatric.
I, for one, am glad no one reads books anymore. Let's be real--it was a drag. Twitter has proven that we don’t really need anything more than 140 characters to say what we need to say, and with listicles, thinkpieces, and overly elaborate intros to just about every fucking “mommy blog” recipe you can find, we have all the reading material and room to write that we could possibly need. Books are officially an obsolete technology.
So, if you happen to still be reading books, I have a message for you: it’s over. It’s time to let it go. Nobody reads anymore except for psychopaths (who, for some reason, want to avoid eye contact with strangers in public when there is no wifi); robots (which are taking over the world); and aliens (only because they haven’t caught up yet, probably). My personal goal is to cut down even more on the amount I read, and I hope you’ll join my efforts as we foray further into this new, soon-to-be illiterate world. Next up is traffic signs. Good thing red octagons are so iconic!
And a heads up: I know you’ll think the next email you get from me is just a bunch of beeps and high-pitched electronic sounds that will make you cock your head like a dog, but don’t worry--it’s a subliminal message beaming the letter directly into your brain. Welcome to the future, and checkmate, Ray Bradbury.
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