Sitting on the sofa minding my own business I read a news item that there is a fall in people buying books as gifts, which has contributed to an overall 4% fall in UK book sales over the past year, with a year-on-year market decline in both volume and value in 2013. Apparently the share of books bought as gifts fell from 24% to 22%, equating to a decrease of 9 million books.
I expect we all have our own ideas on why this decrease is occurring, and I’d love to hear yours. In my own humble opinion I have seen the rise in popularity with young people of TV and computer games since the early Space Invader trials of the mid 1980’s. These games with their constantly moving images on a brightly coloured computer screen, target the brain’s reward centres with each completed level, giving the young person a likely addiction in no time if he/she has even an inkling of an addictive personality. Over time this will be coupled with an increasing inability to actually sit still for very long, or concentrate on even one chapter of a book, for as far as the child is concerned there is no reward in reading to the end of a chapter in something that does not sing, dance, shoot, or give you points for finishing it.
I have seen the decline with my own eyes. Have a look around you at the ages of the people visiting your local library; they will probably mostly be of the older generation, the ones that picked up a book for the sheer joy of getting lost in it and creating a world for themselves out of their own imaginations. Our libraries are closing because the young are moving away from books and towards games that give them instant gratification. If they are not trying to move up to the next level of a game, then they are constantly gazing at a flickering TV screen, or at the messages/menu screen of their mobile phones; sending inane, badly spelled messages to virtual friends from their bedrooms (do children ever play out in the street anymore?) and receiving equally inane, badly spelled replies in return.
Me; give me a book any time. I’m not exactly on par with Methuselah, but then again I’m no Spring chicken either, but can remember sitting enthralled for hours reading to the end of an exciting book and coming back to earth much later with a bump. The few computer games I have played over the years cannot compete with a well written sentence that has the ability to transport me away from the grim reality of buzzing, flickering screens that seem to be the norm today for our poor young people. Ask anyone under the age of about 20 if they’d prefer the latest computer game or a book, and I expect the majority will plump for the former. Granny and Grandad have to visit PC World at Christmas these days or buy iTunes vouchers instead of a book or two for little Johnny. It’s up to us older folk to keep the book sales going!
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion…..