Today is Read a Book Day – a reminder of why physical books remain so prevalent in this age where we are accustomed to instant access to everything. While we become used to multimedia experiences through our phones, iPads and other devices, we feel connected to picking up a physical book. We are eager to see how stories unfold, how the craft of the author plays out on the page, but most of all, how the idea of writing and expression can be seen as a ubiquitous art.
While the traditional business of books have been disrupted by firms like Amazon, putting the instantaneous culture of books up against their luxurious, sensual culture, there is a special connection that we have when we pick something up and read it, whether it is a book, a magazine or that day’s newspaper.
Preserving an art form
Yet, we have a physical connection to the senses which becomes more prevalent when it comes to picking up a book. You see them as a quintessential hallmark of modern society, whether you’re planning what to read over the course of a holiday or attempting to distract yourself from the modern realities of life, whether you’re reading novels by Jane Austen or Helen Fielding, or reading about Nick Robinson’s pursuit of journalism and the truth in an ever-changing dimension of politics.
We love books because we are interested in the form and idea writing has taken, not just as a form of expression, but as a form of art, an art that has become so engrained into our senses of place and being, an art that allows us to feel that we are a part of something special, that we belong.
We recognise a good story when we see one, and we want to see how it ends. By the time it does, we are inspired to protect and preserve the art of writing and the delicacies that are associated with it, whether it’s a cultural institution or the voices that are at its core. The rise of instantaneous access cannot, and will not, ever take that away.
So as we celebrate the importance of books, we must also remember to protect them, to give cause for them, to show why the art of writing as a whole is important, for writing can do more than just entertain. It can inform, engage and stimulate. Indeed, the price you pay now for the content that come from the art of writing will continue to have benefits in the days, months and years ahead – now that’s practical value.
The Canadian author and broadcaster Stuart McLean referred to bookstores as happy places, safe places, places where you could duck in and be called by name.
Bookstores are one more thing – exciting places, thanks to the many books that are on the shelf, waiting for someone to pick them up.
What do you think? Why are books important in our culture? Have your say in the comments section below.