“It’s difficult to quantify precisely the effect of books on our lives – but generally speaking, it’s enormous.”
As per a recent survey, India is the eighth largest book producing country in the world. Its performance in the production of titles in English is seven times superior, ranking third in the world, after the United States and the United Kingdom. Out of these more than 36 % comprises of Religious Books and another 32 % is informative books. So that just leaves 32 % for Novels and Poetry. This says a lot about the kind of books we read.
A question that I always ask is when do we start developing the habit of reading? Does it run in the family or it’s a habit one cultivates as part of growing up and evolving as an individual.
For me it was both, as a family we were reading and was hooked on to it from the first book that I read. Like movies books too transport us to a world beyond, Live and breathe characters that we want to be. As a kid growing up in the 80’s, we were brought up on the staple diet of Enid Blyton, Famous Five, Champak, Chacha Choudhary and likes. Most of these have not managed to survive the onslaught of the more refined Harry Potter, Batman, Lord of the Rings etc. But isn’t this also about evolving choices and tastes. Each decade brings with it new beginnings.
As part of growing up the only options of buying books would be a shop at Bapu Bazaar and the one at Chetak. We got to read what they had to offer, we didn’t have much of choice to pick from but again at least we had something. We shared our books with peers and would wait for them to finish so as to get our turn. The touch and feel of a book, the joy of opening a new one and also the accomplishment of finishing one is a joy only a book reader can truly understand. And now with the opening up of Crossword Book Store we have the luxury of browsing the books according to different genres at our own leisure. Though it is a different matter that we end up buying the books online, as it is always cheaper from the one quoted at the store. Yes it is a habit that is not only costly but also that requires patience but again the rewards at the end is also equally rewarding.
For me each book is revelation and but there is always one book that one can completely identify with. Books is like a piece of art or a painting and as Donna Tarrt said in her Pulitzer Prize winning book The Goldfinch “isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty? If a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, it’s a secret whisper”
Now with the advent of eBooks the complete book reading experience has changed. We carry our entire libraries with us on our phones / tablets / kindles. The search is easy, meanings are easy to find out, and the best example for me has been the cross reference while reading Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and likes. All the historical data are just a click away. Buying books are easy and they get delivered to us in an instant, we can sample read and millions of free books at our disposal what more can a book lover ask for ?? The trend is certainly showing an upward movement, however for me the only drawback is the inability to build a physical library, ever since the advent of eBooks mine has seized to grow.
As per a recent Forbes Survey 19.5% of all books sold in the U.S. that are Kindle titles and E-books now make up around 30% of all book sales and Amazon has a 65% share within that category the rest is taken up by Apple, Barnes and Nobles etc. So I guess both the paper and digital versions are going to co-exist for a long time as there are votaries for both of them.
Inspite of all this we are building a generations that is far removed from the written letter and the most information that they gather is through the moving images i.e. videos. The attention span has reduced to now just 140 characters thanks to the age of the Twitter. And YES the random reading of magazines and articles on net do not absolutely count as READING!!
Let us start at the very beginning and catch them young to inculcate a habit of book reading in any genre of their interest. The importance has been rightly captured in this beautiful couplet:
किसी को भी नहीं फुर्सत जो इन से हज़ उठा पाए,
किताबों में पड़ी हैं बंद अब तक कितनी तहरीरें .
(In the books lie concealed a fund of precious lore,
But none has time or mood to see this treasure trove)