Reader | Make | 07th July 2022 | Virtual Wire
The reader was born the moment the book came into existence. From cave paintings to stone inscriptions , papyrus scrolls and palm leaflets to finally the modern book, the reading material has undergone a long evolutionary process and so have its readers.
In the ancient past, education was a privilege few could afford; only the upper classes were deemed worthy to read the sacred writings of great men. Such discrimination was imposed heavily on women for whom the very act of reading was forbidden fruit. When books became easily accessible to the general public, reading became a basic right and a hobby one would no longer have to dream of.
Readers are the soul and the target of our articles , our books, our Instagram posts and everything that has even been written in history. They share an unpredictable relationship with the author, connected through the latter's work. Their preferences and understanding of the themes and motifs of the narrative are the ultimate decision-makers of the Book’s financial and impactful success. So it's not very strange that due to the millions of different opinions among the readers, misconceptions are prone to rise up, especially from the non-reading population and within the bookworms’ club as well.
‘If you don’t read 100 books every year then you don’t count as a reader!’
This is perhaps the very first preconceived idea we have to deal with as readers. Technology made our lives easier but also reduced our attention spans to the point that we can’t focus on reading one book, let alone a 100. Millennials might recall their childhood is filled with memories of noses buried deep into several fairytales and devouring a book every week , even during exams (true story). We were young and carefree so our minds could roam freely in the various worlds created by our favourite authors. Our hunger for books was greater. The hunger never really goes away; it gets tampered with by the grim realities of life. Naturally, the number of books we consume reduces. Meanwhile, our fellow readers talk on social media about the 50 books on their monthly TBR and completing eadathons (reading marathons ). Our friends and family tell us how we have lost the reading habit that used to be our best attribute. All of these tend to add to our insecurity and dawning fear that we are simply not good readers anymore.
Paper and Prejudice
Growing up in the 21st century guarantees this awfully familiar statement we have all heard, in various languages and in multiple variations from our elders, that the internet and gadgets like the phone and computer are destroying children’s reading habits. For the generation before us, reading is viewed as something of a romantic experience. For them poring over pages with minuscule printing under the glare of candles or lamplights, reading the newspapers voraciously, and finishing thick hardcover classics in a day or two counted as ‘real reading’.
Today we have the additional benefit of the Electronic Book or E-book which came along as a very much welcome asset to the modern book industry. For us, the E-book is a blessing to our wallets and our limited storage spaces We can carry our books everywhere and read them anywhere . The only downside is that it doesn’t smell like a real book. On the other hand, E-books are a hindrance to the traditional paper format and readers may harm their eyes by staring into their tablets and phones too much. E-books in general are not considered real books and those who read are not true readers.
The ‘comic’ in the middle of my pun-filled sub-heading truly has a tragic reputation. While Comics are fairly new additions in the publishing world compared to the standard book, they have never been seen as serious reading material. Comics usually used to be aimed at children and teens like Marvel, Asterix, Tintin and in India Chacha Chaudhary, Nonte Phonte and so on. But With the emergence of comics or graphic novels like Maus And Persepolis, this medium expanded in terms of age demographic and themes that dealt with more adult issues. The cultural explosion also introduced us to Manga (Japanese comic), Manhwa (Korean comic) and Manhua (Chinese comic) as doesn’t well as webtoons. Regardless of the booming popularity of the comic, the older generation don’t consider it a respectable item on a reader’s bookshelf. Graphic versions of originally worded books were thought of as not up to the mark or even insulting. Many think that comics are for kids and reading them most of the time disqualifies the person as a true bibliophile.
Can Reading be Audible?
Radio culture introduced the well-loved audio stories like Sunday Suspense which can be seen as a sort of precursor to audiobooks. What boggles my mind is that people count listening to stories on the radio as acceptable but don’t find the audiobook as belonging to the category of reading. I’ve watched booktube (youtube about books) videos of booktubers who admit to listening to the audiobooks alongside reading the physical book because it helps them read faster or imagine the characters better. For a species who gave birth to literature basically through oral storytelling, audio stories seem to be viewed as atrocious by some sections of people which truly is an irony.
So far I detailed in short the prejudices of the elder generation and the non-readers against the reading community. These assumptions build harmful borders between them which often leads to verbal war. But prejudice starts at home and it's important to put the lens on ourselves as well. We've all had our sets of prejudices against our fellow bookworms. Most of the time the cause is plain ignorance. Traditional readers believe that manga /manhwa admirers are weebs or not considered readers. Webtoon readers are seen as frivolous and audiobook lovers are disregarded because they "are not even reading the book so what's the point?".
I myself have been privy to these ideas because I didn't know better and that is the case with most readers. We grow up, we learn and we evolve. We can read traditional books and scroll to the latest webtoon episodes. We read our newspapers and simultaneously browse google articles. We can read serious graphic novels and then switch to shoujo manga. The reader has never been a one-dimensional identity and it's time we stop treating it as such. Each reader is different and how they read, what they read and where they read is an individual choice that ought to receive due respect.