Are We Devaluing Books?
March 6, 2013 | 11:50 am
By Juli Monroe
It’s a snowy day in our nation’s capital, and watching the flakes fall has made me contemplative.
I’ve been reading a number of historical and fantasy books in worlds and times where books were rare, precious and valued. I can’t help but contrast that to today, when people can download thousands of free books to their e-reader of choice.
What impact does that have on our perceived value of a book? I thought back and compared my reading habits now to when I was a child (and books were relatively rare—I had to wait for Christmas or birthdays, and use my scant allowance). I seem to recall reading more slowly, and savoring my books. Getting near the end of a book was a time to slow down, because I didn’t want it to end.
Today, when I hit the 75 percent mark of a book, sometimes I catch myself speeding up—somehow wanting to get to the end, and check off the proverbial box. (Yep; that one’s finished!) My recent use of Goodreads hasn’t helped that. The tiny obsessive part of me wants to switch a book’s status to “Finished.”
I’m curious: What do you think? Has an abundance of free books (and I’m talking legal books here, not pirated) affected how you read? Do you read faster? Do you bother to finish a book even if it’s only so-so? When I was younger, I even finished the crappy books. Oh, don’t get the wrong idea—we weren’t poor. My parents just believed in limits.
I’m sure we could go on about the quality of writing then and now, but that’s not really where I’m going with this. It’s more about the relative abundance of cheap and free reading material, including what’s online.
Anyone want to give me more to contemplate while I finish my cup of tea and decide whether I’m going to shovel the snow now or later?