“I absolutely love reading books.”
The above statement is always exactly what I’m thinking, right up until the point when I am sat, quietly staring at the first page of hundreds that I am in no doubt will enthral and delight. But, it’s at that point that my mind starts to lose focus.
Like most people of my generation, I find it difficult to completely turn my full attention to one thing for a sustained period of time; I’m more comfortable multitasking with three glowing black mirrored screens in front of me than one collection of bound, static pages. I am, I have learned to accept, part of the reason that TV shows now start with #NameOfTheShow: our generation hates the idea of missing out on anything.
When I was younger, I would quietly devour book after book, but back then I didn’t have a mobile phone or a tablet. These things have the internet, which in case you didn’t know, is linked to absolutely everything, which can be, well, quite distracting.
On my first day at Agent, I was recommended a good book that I would find really useful in understanding some of the thinking processes and ideas behind some of what we do here. I accepted it with the best will in the world, read the blurb, convinced I’d have it read within the week… That was a month ago.
At this point I’d like to add that I hadn’t simply just ignored the book I was tasked with reading, I had read around 40 pages in the first week. Not only that, I had sought out and listened to hours of the author explaining his book and the philosophy and reasoning behind it in detail, on various podcasts, interviews and TED Talks he had featured in.
However, I feel this admission of guilt is relevant as perhaps our generation are not entirely a lost cause. As I’ve gotten older I’ve replaced the time spent reading books with listening to Audiobooks and Podcasts. I can still say I usually have at least one ‘book’ on the go at any one time, even if it’s not in paper form. On top of that I can spend hours watching TED and listening to Freakonomics (for example) on a whole range of subjects that I would never have dreamt of lifting a textbook to seek out.
This of course does not replace that page turning, inner peace and almost meditative focus that reading great fiction can have, in theory. But as I get older and technology makes everything in life immediately accessible, are books a luxury, reserved only for lying next to a pool on holiday?
For those who love to learn and consume new stories and information I feel that the book has had its day. There, I said it, let’s move forward.
We have become so used to having more information than we could ever possibly digest that you almost take it all for granted. We’ve started to lose our ability to sit down and focus on just one thing which could be seen as lazy, I see it as progressive. Setting aside hours for a book can be difficult, whereas with new technologies I can learn whilst commuting to work or cooking a meal, for example.
SO: Books, do we need them? Or is what we understand as a ‘book’ now available in other formats more suited for our modern information climate? I will leave the blog space open for any other Agents to counter with and argument for the power of the page. I know books are a hotly debated subject in the office and I imagine there could be some strong feelings.