Many years ago I read a dystopian novel (classed as sci-fi back then) by Ray Bradbury called Fahrenheit 451. It was about a future society where books were outlawed and there were special firemen who went around burning any they found. Some people fought against this by memorising whole books in order to save them for future generations and I think if something like that ever happened now, I would try to do the same because I can’t live without books. A world without them would feel totally wrong to me!
It may seem an unlikely scenario to us, books being outlawed, apart from perhaps in a totalitarian state somewhere, but there are other ways that books can disappear. It is a fact that younger people don’t seem to read as many books as previous generations have done. There are too many other things competing for their time and attention. It’s obviously both faster and easier to turn on the TV, put on a DVD or watch Youtube etc – that way you don’t have to make much effort. You are just fed the story without having to use your imagination much as it’s all there right in front of you. Reading a book takes time and some effort, and time is precious.
I think that’s a shame and I’m very worried that books, as we know them, might disappear altogether without actually having to be banned in any way.
Humans have a long tradition of story-telling, whether it’s written down or not and I think we have a fundamental need to make up stories in order to entertain or be entertained. But with new ways of reading being invented almost all the time, perhaps there is still hope that books will continue to exist, although perhaps in different formats. Me – I’ll always prefer “proper” books.
All is not lost yet though. I spent last week at Frankfurt Book Fair, one of the biggest (if not THE biggest?) book fairs in the world. Here publishers, agents, editors and other industry professionals from all over the world come together in one place – or rather six or seven enormous halls at Frankfurt’s “Messe” exhibition centre. At the weekend they are also joined by members of the public, bookworms like myself who can’t resist books in all shapes and sizes. I love the smell and feel of books, the way they look, and the fantastic worlds that lurk between the covers. From the huge number of people attending the fair it would seem I am far from alone and books are still big business, even if not quite as much as in years gone by.
I do hope future generations will rediscover the joys of reading books and continue to enjoy the huge number of stories published each year. Judging by the stands at Frankfurt there really is something for everyone out there and if you take the time to find the perfect book for you, it’s so worth it. Books rock!
PS. Could this be Rapunzel’s tower in the middle of Frankfurt? It certainly looked like it to me but I may have been reading too much the night before … 🙂