Who the hell is Dewey? Books on life support
I borrowed my first book from the University library the other day. I realise that doesn’t really seem like a big deal but for me this momentous occasion becomes interesting because I am a third year student. In the three years I’ve been at Monash, I’ve not once borrowed a book until now. In fact, the only time I visit the library is to steal free wifi and there was that one time I forgot my notebook so I had to use the free computers to check Facebook.
But the reason I haven’t borrowed a book before is not because I’m a bad student. I mean, my grades are only average but I think that might have something to do with the number of hours I spend drinking instead of studying.
It got me thinking. Besides the occasional piece of fiction that sits on my bedside table, I don’t read that many books. And I’m not alone. Most of my Gen Y friends are the same and this is probably a trend we’ll see even more prominently in iGen’s (what the ABS are apparently calling people who were born after 1989).
There are more than a few of reasons this is happening. Overlooking the elephants in the room like the fact that nearly everything you need to know is on Wikipedia or can be found with Google or that Gen Y simply prefer to sit on YouTube for a few hours instead of reading a book, there’s a couple other reasons this change is happening.
Audiobooks is the first. Although they’re still in the introductory stage of the product life cycle, they’re growing in popularity. Apple and a website called Audible are the main driver of this who made audiobooks incredibly easy to download and use through iTunes with a sync of your iPod or iPhone. Not only that but they’re cheaper than actual books plus it means I don’t have to carry around a 600 page book in my bag.
The other is Amazon’s Kindle. This is the first electronic book designed with a screen that’s easy on the eyes and is actually easy to use. Admittedly slowly, but it’s making a big impact overseas and the release of Kindle 2 allows you to read newspapers, eBooks, magazines and even blogs as well. You can annotate, draw, highlight, check the dictionary and I realise this is starting to sound like a sales pitch but if you’re sick of reading you can just browse the web or listen to music.
Both of these technologies aren’t just another way to read a book, they’re changing the experience of reading completely. While it might take a few years, the book will soon only be useful for chocking up the uneven table in the living room. Although I admit the fact that in a rare oddity in this world it somehow managed to remain free from advertising, unfortunately, much like it’s ad supported friends the newspaper and the television, the book will eventually die.
To you old people reading this and laughing at the suggestion that such a thing could happen, the simple fact is Gen Y don’t like books. You’re probably thinking that this 19 year old has no idea what he’s talking about because people will always prefer to read something physical or hold something tangible in their hands but you’re wrong. You prefer something physical to read. I do not. You’re old and you’re a traditionalist who prefers the nostalgia of sitting in bed and flicking through pages.
Don’t assume your characteristics and preferences carry on through generations because they don’t. The best part from all this of course is that we should see somewhat of a decline in the number of paper cuts across the globe. I’m not sure on the implications this will have on the band-aid industry. And the lesson we can learn from this is to never to do an Arts uni because it means you actually have to go to the library and borrow a book.
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