It’s the Sydney Writer’s Festival this week and all things literary are taking centre stage in the harbour city. So it’s timely to consider the importance of literature and writing in the digital age.
While we are living in a period where our attention is always in demand from multiple content vectors, there is a key lesson in the enduring interest in book-reading - that quality content is, and always will be, in demand. While the number of book sales varies dramatically around the world
, and recent news media have (somewhat erroneously) focused on e-reader and e-book sales being in decline
, there is the enviable fact that print book sales are still strong
, and recent research which demonstrates that at least 90% of Australians consider themselves casual readers
. And perhaps importantly, we are spending five hours a week reading
. It’s not as much time as we spend in front of the television or on social media, but it is a significant proportion of our leisure time.
So in the digital age, where there are multiple content options available to us, we choose to read because we think quality of content is important.
Of course this has also been the defence that newspapers and news media have maintained against declining readerships and titles. But the difference between reading news and reading books is a tale of advertising and editorship. While news media is beholden unto advertising revenue and corporate influence, books are seen as more worthy, crafted and edited by those driven by quality.
Interestingly, the digital age may well have fostered this perception. As content is more and more accessible through digital news media and social media channels, we may well seek books (whether physical or digital) as a mark of difference - a chance to fully immerse oneself in an experience of a story without interruption and commentary.