Read any good books lately?

Expert Opinion

I saw a statistic today claiming almost one in 10 people working in the media haven’t read a book for pleasure in the last 12 months. The result was from an online survey of 2,282 adults, carried out from 5 to 8 March this year.

Could this be true? It sounds shocking at first but, to be honest, I’m surprised that the number of non-readers isn’t higher. When was the last time you talked to someone about a book you were reading, let alone a book you had both read? I find more of my book-related conversations go like this:

            Somebody: Have you read X?

            Me: No. Is it good?

            Somebody: Yeah! I’ll lend it to you.

            Me: Ok.

Sometimes the roles are reversed, but it’s generally a one-way flow.

With people spending more of their leisure time on social networking websites, is the way we entertain ourselves becoming less of a shared thing? After all, it’s easier to talk about a book you’ve read or a television programme you’ve watched if someone else has seen it, too, and when specific programmes were available only during their particular broadcast times, everybody would watch the same thing at the same time.

But because sites such as Facebook and Twitter are inherently individualised, they give each user a unique experience. Television on-demand also means that people are more isolated from each other in how they entertain themselves. In other words, there is less common ground to discuss in the office the next day.

The live event, however, remains at heart a shared experience. While online social networking and on-demand entertainment make leisure time unique for each person, the immediate, tangible, shared experience gains even more value. People still talk about good events long after they have passed, and a single good conversation can bring people together and generate ideas and co-operation long afterwards. Bonds made face-to-face in a shared space, or taking part in a shared activity, are just as strong in a society geared more and more towards individualised leisure time experiences.

I have a long list of books recommended to me by friends and colleagues. Maybe it’s time to crack a spine or two…

– Mike Trudeau, Staff Writer