Printed Books are Dying, Readers are Decreasing: A High-Time for Libraries and Librarians to Accept the Change

 Introduction: Printed or paper books will very soon be relegated to niche markets for people who buy them for nostalgia. If anyone still reads printed books, they are the dying breed, a freak of nature in today’s culture. It won’t be a surprise if printed bookstores and printed libraries will be extinct within the next 50 years with all the technological revolutions.

1. Root of the Change: The root of the change can be analyse from the following angles-

a) Screen is Dominating over Static Printed Page: The technological revolution, created an intensely visual culture and society. Kids growing up these days are addicted to screens, it may be TV, computers, movie theaters, etc. The printed books are ideal, it does not create interaction. So, people are favouring other options and there is no wrong with it.

b) People are Busy and Are on Move all the Time: Life is much busier than it was even a decade ago, and printed books require time to finish, weight much to carry with our move. On the other hand the electronic books or AudioBooks occupy less space, remains clean and fashionable so it’s grabbing the printed market. After all no one can force the readers to read something they don’t like, not comfortable with and enjoy.

c) People are Goal Oriented: We claim to value education, but we really only value it as a means to an end. Education is something to be endured so that you can get your diploma and move on to the “real world” of work. We don’t see education as a goal in of itself. So does the new generation. They only value the content that meets their needs; it may be a blog post, a web discussion and so on. They now don’t bother for a 500 page long book.

d) Patience is Lacking: Since all other media currently available comes in short clips or easily-scannable screen / blog posts, the people’s attention span (in general) has decreased and they are not comfortable with the time need to spend to read out a complete printed book.

e) Emergence of Popular Entertainments: The entertainment industry is shifting and one has huge options left than to read a printed book. S/he can watch the movies over TV / Internet, listen songs in iPod, listed radio over mobile phone, can play games over internet / mobile / laptop / desktops / iPhone.

f) Social Network is Grabing the World: Facebook, Myspace, Orkut, Twitter is grabbing the world especially the young population.

Further, in case of printed books first you began with a tree, you needed to cut down destroying the environment, turn into paper, write something on, and for in-depth information on any topic refer the user to other documents. Internet makes it easy to read out and catch related thing by following the hyperlink. You can jump from link to link, from books to books until you are satisfied.

2. Is Reading Declined?: Printed books are one of many mediums / modes of transferring knowledge between people. As society has progressed, so has our way of acquiring and sharing knowledge. Our methods of teaching, learning all are transforming. Who don’t have taste for reading still don’t inclined towards reading. But majority of people who have a taste for reading now shifted towards internet and other electronic medium. Parents who grow up with technology are passing it onto their children. So, in case of young generation the inclination towards screen is proportionally high. This is more a shift in medium than a rejection of reading in general.

3. Role of Libraries and Librarians: To be frank, public library funding is decreasing throughout the world; the users of printed books are also following this trend. Many libraries only get the users in its Internet Zone or Corner, Digital Library Section and so on. Users are building a tendency towards screen in place of printed books and the computer science professionals are grabbing the opportunities of Library and Information Science (LIS) Professionals. So, if any librarians still focused on printed documents it would be very difficult to save the library from his hand. Though there are many options left in the hands of librarians the following two needs greater emphasis.

a) Generate Your Own Fund: All type of libraries should try to generate their own fund.

b) Promote the Change: Readers are reading as much as ever, if not more. But the shift to screen (Kindle, Nuke, IPod, IPad, IPhone, TV) is unavoidable. So it’s the time for librarians and libraries to acquire these new things, new technologies and move to the future.

4. Conclusion: The time is at our hand, when we need to stop thinking of reading as sitting down with a hardbound printed book that is 500 pages long. Instead, we need to recognize and embrace variety of ways that people express their ideas. After all in present situation, reading and gaining knowledge cannot be focused only on printed book. One can definitely get an in-depth knowledge by going through a blog post and its comments or a discussion forum than reading the printed book of a single author. Even who are interested in a full book reading, can download it in RSS Reader (Google Reader), e-Readers, Kindle, iPhone, Nook, iPad and iPods and carry a mass volume with them wherever they went. E-books at least give reading a chance in the future so it’s the time to keep reading alive by extending support to those formats.

In the days to come, more people will be reading on screens. So it’s the time for libraries and librarians to accept the change and just get used to it, begin embracing and promoting the new technologies. Otherwise they will just shoot themselves on their foot.

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