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Book reading culture is on decline

Book reading culture is on decline
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By: Syed Mustafa Ahmad

In the age of the Internet, the book reading culture is on decline not only across the globe but in Kashmir as well. However, it is also a fact that before the advent of the Internet in the Valley, a majority of people didn’t have inclination towards reading books.

A minority of people were voracious readers thanks to outside exposure they had got. In Kashmir, there are diverse opinions regarding the decline in book reading culture after the introduction of the Internet in our lives. But the common thread among all the differing views is that the Internet has affected the book reading culture in many ways. It has left both positive as well as negative impacts.

It is a universally-accepted fact every invention or discovery brings both positive and negative things with it. Same is the case with the Internet. If it has revolutionized and globalized our lives, it has adversely affected our lives, particularly in case of book reading culture.

Yes, the e-learning and the PDFs are omnipresent, however, the smell of the books and the delight of testing the fragrant air while going through the pages, is gone. In this piece of write up, let us see how the Internet has affected the book reading culture in the Valley.

The first is people don’t buy books at all, though there are other causes responsible for this.  Now, people believe that all the libraries of the world are at one click away. Why to carry the extra load of books in the already burdened world?

In the city, only book shops wear deserted looks, while other shops are flooded with people, fighting for every single item that is available on the shelves. On the carts, books are sold on high discounts. However, there are no book lovers to check them. The cart driver at the top of his voice draws the attention of the passers-by to buy these, but they are busy in their world.

The second is the diminishing presence of libraries. Once upon a time, my friends and I had the competition of having a charming library, with world class books. However, today, such a dream makes no sense.

Barring few, no one is interested in setting up his or her library. The rectangular smart phones have taken the place of the giant libraries. Soft copies are found in place of the hard copies that used to dot the rooms of the houses.

The third is the digitization of education. Virtual classrooms have made it possible to copy-paste everything from the Internet. There is no need to open a book and write from it. The Internet has made it possible to simply copy the required lines and past there. In this way, the primary sources have lost their worth.

No one is bothered to look at the primary sources and cite the examples from it. The fourth is deteriorating standard of books. Some writers have been bought by the governments for the vested interests. In other words, writers and authors have sold their conscience for petty gains.

For the sake of job or publicity, writers have deliberately overlooked the miseries of a common man. The world is grappling with poverty, climate change, wars, mental disorders, drugs, human trafficking, prostitution, fake medicines, etc. and the books talk about romance and the supernatural things.

In order to develop fully, we must revert back to the book reading culture.  Yes, the Internet has given access to the inaccessible books. However, the taste lies in reading books. The smell and the delight while handling a book is sweet. PDFs and e-libraries can never take the place of hard-cover books. Before the age of the Internet, books dominated the world.

We had produced marvelous brains who were voracious reader of books. The real taste of learning lies in reading books. It broadens our mental horizon and takes us to the other world of imagination and critical thinking.

(The author hails from Hajibagh, Budgam)

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