Books, emotions, and paying attention

Stories about the future have long portrayed the things we know today in emotional terms. Books get used a lot of the time. Imagine a world with hardly any physical books. When a movie presents you with a world in which books are off-limits or scarce, you’re prompted to stop and think about what you take for granted.

Could you do without books?

So how important are books? Over 5 years’ ago, I wrote a piece that challenged the idea that ebooks will become a dominant force. We have seen an explosion in reading via tablets and eReaders, but books are still hanging around.

And not in a ‘bad smell’ way. Books are not unpopular, despite sales of ebooks catching up. In fact, ebook sales are slowing down. Is that because books are still a draw, or are all lengthy texts suffering?

After all, the sheer amount of information being pumped out on a daily basis is phenomenal. Reading a book from cover to cover can be a challenge for some. That challenge gets even harder as we’re primed for more snippets of information more of the time. More more more.

The emotional pull of lost books is no longer quite as disorientating. In part, because it’s a cliché. But not only that. We’re also used to the idea of reading in other ways. Desktops, tablets, eReaders, phones, you name it. Screens are everywhere. Words are everywhere.

The book may look impressive on a shelf, but we own other things. Collections of stuff vary so much that we’re hardly limited to books.

The luxury tag has waned. So has the desire to keep every book you have ever read. Yes, there will always be some people who are drawn to owning a massive library of books. But is that feeling becoming more rare as the years go by?

Could you live without books?