Millennials: Books Are Alive and Well
There are probably few things in the world that I treasure more than books. And I mean physical books, the ones you can feel and touch and cherish and smell, or proudly admire in the bookshelf to which you keep adding new volumes.
In an age of constant novelty in technology, where tablets, Netflix and TV as well as countless other things compete for our attention on a daily basis, it is wonderful to see that people still read books, be it physical or digital. And not just old people: children’s and young adult books are responsible for a great part of sales, which means that a younger generation is finding joy in reading. Books are still thriving in the 21st century – there is hope for the future after all.
What’s more, we have witnessed a comeback from independent bookstores in the past years, and even Amazon, the online giant, has been opening physical bookstores in the United States. The obvious conclusion here is that nothing beats the sensation of walking inside a bookstore to actually see the books and pick them up before you buy them. In addition, there has been a boost in audiobook sales, which means that there are now three major ways of reading a book: the classic physical book, e-books, and audiobooks. Therefore, regardless of format, storytelling still plays an important and active role in people’s lives, as it has throughout the centuries, something that technology is not going to destroy: on the contrary, it is providing more ways to make books accessible, and that is truly a great thing. In this way, books may appeal to different kinds of audiences, and thus, a bigger, more widespread audience will be interested in reading.
Last week, I went to the Madrid Book Fair on the second day after the official opening of its 76th edition, and it was so full of people that you could barely move around. In spite of the difficulty in navigating the fair at the El Retiro park, I found it inspiring that so many people and children consider books and book-related events as something worth a visit on a hot Saturday afternoon. Most had bags filled with new paperbacks, many of them signed by their favourite authors, as many publishing houses offered signing events in their casetas. Although it is probably more crowded on weekends, the fair is full every day. The same thing happens in Lisbon, where every year thousands of people visit the book fair between May and June. Unlike, say, the London Book Fair, these are different by being destined for the general public, and not so much for editors and agents. Thus, in these you can see ordinary people buying books for themselves for the pleasure of it. It is a public event, not so much a business one – only for the publishing houses and bookstores present, of course, which can sell their books directly.
For centuries, reading and writing have been an essential part of the development and evolution of civilizations. Hence, the fact that people still consider the idea of being lost in a book as one of the greatest sources of pleasure out there is a very positive sign. Regardless of war or death, books have always been there as a source of knowledge, entertainment, or comfort. It seems they really are here to stay.