Millennials are ruining everything and now they’re destroying books too.
This is a sentiment that I’ve seen repeated over and over again on the internet, from headlines to Facebook posts to concerned inspirational posters in classrooms. When E-readers were introduced in the 2000s people stumbled over themselves to publish think pieces about how the print format was ‘dead’ and the kids were going to do nothing but stare at screens, ruining reading and books forever. But as a 21 year old college student, I can tell you that not only is that not at all the case, but there's real data to suggest that social media is perhaps one of the best tools for books and publishing. It might even encourage young people to pick up a book instead of scrolling on Twitter.
In my own life, most (if not all) of my friends read — perhaps even more than their parents. Young people have endless amounts of reading material at their fingertips and are constantly consuming information, whether it’s a book or a news article or a podcast. And yes, some young people read more than others and consume different content, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t read at all. We just have access to information in different ways. I read short-form news from the NYT, Washington Post, and the BBC, long-form investigative journalism from the Atlantic, the New Yorker, the Economist, Wierd, and Vox, along with Academic Journals, Facebook and Twitter posts, and blogging forums. On top of that, I enjoy listening to Podcasts and enjoy watching Youtube Videos and TED Talks. All of those things leave me with a holistic picture of the world with diverse, complicated perspectives. They also require sustained attention and complex understanding of moral and ethical issues. To claim that just because a young person doesn’t pick up a traditional book they’re uninformed is ignorant of the variety of media available that achieves the same goal.
But books themselves also aren’t going away anytime soon. According to the NPD Bookscan, book sales have actually increased every year since 2013 (about 10.8% over that time period).
In fact, Independent bookstores are doing well too. This April, Independent bookstore day made a big splash across the country as readers flocked to their local stores to support local writers and business. At the 5th annual event, which was held on April 27th in most cases, many bookstores had their biggest day of sales.
According to Rachel Bussel in Forbes Magazine, “Independent Bookstore Day was The Bookshop’s (which is located in Nashville, TN) biggest sales day since they opened in July 2016, with an approximately 10% increase from last year’s IBD, and three times their typical Saturday revenue.”
Then, there’s Amazon. No matter how you feel about the giant, don’t forget that the company started out as a bookstore. According to publishers weekly this past February, “Sales for Amazon surged passed $200 billion in 2018, increasing 31% to $232.9 billion, compared with $177.9 billion in 2017.”
A huge driver of this surge may actually be social media, specifically Instagram. Bookstores like Books Are Magic, The Bookshop, and others have millions of followers on Instagram along with their loyal army of book bloggers, who can also have 100k followings. Other accounts like Penguin Books (@penguinbooks) and HarperCollins (@HarperCollinsus) have 350k and 264k followings on Instagram. Book clubs are also popular online and many media outlets like theSkimm, Buzzfeed, and others have dedicated book blogs. Goodreads, a social media website and app dedicated to book tracking, is a huge platform too. There are plenty of websites just dedicated to readers, like Bookriot.com and Literary Hub.
Authors are also incredibly popular on Twitter. Stephen King and JK Rowling among others have huge followings. Writing Twitter is an active online community and many writers are looked to for their hot takes on important issues in the news. Just the process of getting an agent has been brought to social media through #pitmad and other annual events that connect agents and publishers to new, diverse talent.
In my own city, Columbus, Ohio, Independent bookstores are everywhere. The Book Loft, Two Dollar Radio, Gramacy, and Prologue are just a few. Columbus also has a thriving coffee shop and foodie culture along with many colleges that add to the allure of getting a good caffeine fix and spending the afternoon in a book. Many people my age use reading as a way to get off of social media and are discovering the joys of reading what they love rather than what ‘they’re supposed to be reading.’ Technology has helped people realize that reading what they truly enjoy instead of the elitist classics or a bad young adult novel can be fun and relaxing.
Basically, there’s never been a better time to be an avid reader. The entire world is out there, right at your fingertips. That’s truly magical. Reading isn’t dead. Poetry isn’t dead. Words aren’t dead and they never will be. They do change with technology, access, and format — that’s perfectly okay. But maybe, instead of running headlines proclaiming ‘the end of books’ just let us read and pick up a self-help book for yourself too.