Will The ‘Fashion’ Of Reading Come Back?
You may not agree with the view expressed by a management consultant that people have stopped reading books and prefer to watch the same content in an audio-visual or video format. The consultant was asked to help launch an e-com site to sell self-published books as most of such books remain unsold. It was assumed that the writers who print their own books want them to be read.
It was then that I discovered some truths. One was that the habit of reading books may have declined but has not ceased. And many (if not most) of those who publish their own books to make money do that only because they have assured buyers though no readers. Such writers have political influence or high level contacts and have hundreds or even thousands of copies of their books bought by the government or a pocket organization. After the purchase they may be dumped in some godown to be auctioned as scrap “according to rules” or distributed to state libraries to decorate their shelves. In either case the ‘author-publisher’ does make money even providing for printing costs.
If not this there is an alternative of the pocket body palming off the book on people who depend on it for some other need; againreading is not in the picture.
If the book has an interesting title or an attractive cover it may be given with some other product to finish the stock of both and open the purses. After after all the words ‘FREE with’ do catch the eye. This, however, involves at least the intention to read the book.
Another reason for the sale of a book may be to use it as an item of interior decoration. A Sanskrit sasying, “Pustakam Hasta Bhushanam” (carry books to impress), may also appeal to some. In such cases rather than content the book title and cover are more important. A book is, more often than not, judged by its cover despite the advice not to do so.
Rehashing a book and reissuing it with another title is not as bada practice as the newspaper fraud I heard of in Hyderabad. A printing press there brought out 32 dailies in late ’70s using the same composed matter with different ‘mastheads’ (name-plafes) with sane news and giving different headlines. Only 5 or 6 copies of each were printed for giving as voucher copies for state or legal advertisements or for blackmailing.
A visit to the Ajanta caves with their paintings of beautiful well dressed women showed that many fashions like backless choli return again and again. Pants went from tight to bell bottoms back to tight and to tighter jeans now. So the habit of reading books might come back agaIn.
Some states are launchIng movements to promote reading. The days of rehashed books coming out with new titles and ‘Not for reading’ books may be over. I know people who never read anything but a class book and the bank book in their lives. They may start reading now due to Covid-19 pandenic lockdown or retirement.
So don’t shut down your book shop or change it into grocery store Not yet.