Reading in the 21st century

For three months last fall I did an experiment. I monitored my behavior as a consumer of entertainment, which included reading, watching or playing as the only categories.

Books, blogs, news websites and magazines all fell into the category of reading. TV and movies in all forms fell into the watching category. Video games, workouts and sports all fell into the playing category. The objective of my experiment was to closely monitor my behavior when I wasn’t at my job and note the amount of time I devoted to the three forms of entertainment.

It is important to note that I was only monitoring those times when I was tired from work and in need of relaxation, which usually equated to the last hour or so of each day or the occasional lazy day off on a weekend.

I was an English major who considers himself a literary scholar, so I like to read more than most of my friends, but reading still took a back seat to watching or playing. There was one week in which I wouldn’t allow myself to turn on my TV, thereby forcing myself to read from a novel every day. I found I enjoyed the novel much more than usual when I read in large chunks daily. Doing so, allowed me to become more attached and in tune to the world of the novel, but I also missed my TV more and more each day.

When it comes to a desire for pure relaxation, watching a bad show on TV always wins out over reading a good book. There are some book lovers who will disagree with that statement, but I think most people run to their TV for escape before picking up a book. There is an older, retired person I know who reads at least a book a week, but also is up to speed on all new Netflix and Amazon Prime shows, sort of proving my point. That person has nothing but free time and reads voraciously, but seems to watch even more voraciously.

My favorite activity, between reading, watching and playing, was playing. While I may have spent more hours watching, I relished my play time the most. Playing basketball or golf with friends, working out alone or playing video games were my favorite activities, even if I spent more hours watching.

When it came to reading, I found another interesting element. Whenever I felt like reading over all other activities, say on a lazy Saturday morning, I always went to my books. I sat in my reading chair, grabbed a book that suited my mood and read for about 30 minutes. I didn’t go to the internet.

Reading on the internet seemed to be more of a constant thing that happened almost subconsciously each day. I rarely went to the internet for a relaxing reading session, but overall I read more words on the internet than I did in books. Also worth noting, my relaxing reading sessions are usually 30 minutes or less and don’t come up every day, so finishing a 400-page novel in a short enough time span to immerse oneself in the book becomes improbable. This renders the reading of books less appealing when one realizes the best way to enjoy a novel is to sink your teeth into it daily. Once you start feeling like you can’t devote daily time, it’s easy to just give up on reading a book.

So, when it comes to being a reader in the 21st century, I drew the following conclusions: Reading is far from being dead. Technically, people read more than ever, because of the internet. The problem for anyone aspiring to become an author of books is that all our other forms of entertainment really are better. Video games today are amazing, as are many movies and TV shows, but nothing beats the real-life experience of being outside and active in the fresh air.

Books still have their place, though it be a small place, in the life of a 21st century consumer, but I can easily envision a day without books. If someone took away all my books and said there were no more to be had, my life would go on just fine.

I’ve read articles that say books have made a comeback in the past year or two, which brings me to one final point I almost forgot. When it comes to choosing a real book over an e-book, reading a real book wins easily. E-book readers are cool in various ways, but do not compare to real books.





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