IDEA: Technology is Changing How We Read, But Not Why

In an age of reading the latest New York Times Bestseller on a tablet and getting our news through our smart phones, it is unusual to be celebrating the written word. This weekend was the 31st annual Printer’s Row Lit Fest, and despite our technology-run lives, people came out in droves for the love of books.

The largest outdoor literary festival in the midwest took over the South Loop with book enthusiasts, creative-minded poets and authors. A walk down Dearborn Street was more like browsing a bookstore rather than being in the midst of a concrete jungle.

People came from all over to spend a day with books, like Jenna Buchholz who drove up from St. Louis.

“I think books are important because it’s nice to learn things from paper that people put their heart and soul into. Reading a book is an intimate experience,” Buchholz said.

In between the shelves of romance stories, history lessons and Shakespeare classics, festival goers were immersed in their books-real, tangible books-and it was easy to forget the digital age we live in.

Along with the never-ending aisles of paperbacks, the Lit Fest held seminars and discussions to keep literature enthusiasts engaged. An interesting and relevant discussion, “Storytelling in the Digital Age” reminded me that we are indeed run by technology.

A panel of professionals, moderated by renowned Chicago journalist, Amy Guth, looked deep into how we connect with people in this day and age. Instead of reaching out to an audience through written sentences, people are engaging through tweets, videos, and hashtags.

Guth explained it perfectly saying, “There are different elements to each channel. Each platform should be a piece of a whole in how we communicate.”

When content just lived on a piece of paper, writers didn’t have to fight as hard for the attention of the readers. Now, news outlets need to cater to a completely different audience: the internet.

The news world is still morphing to the internet and its quirks, and how to repurpose content on different channels to stay relevant in a short-attention spanned society.

“As long as you are getting your information accurately and responsibly, I don’t think the internet is necessarily a threat. It’s in some ways more beneficial because news has become a two-way conversation.”

Guth said she believes the future of print, at least for media publications, lies in creating a less disposable item.

“I can see there being a premium boutique item that will be more of a collector’s thing than a day to day publication,” she said.

And if you think about it, books are that collector’s item that everyone was at the fest for. While the newspaper industry is taking a hard blow, the book industry hasn’t seen any harsh declines in recent years.

Brad Jonas, owner of Powell’s Bookstore, held a successful stand at the fest. He said he has been in the industry for 35 years and said digital devices aren’t his biggest competition.

“Everything is certainly changing, but it’s people buying physical books in different ways. People go to Amazon, or other online distributors, to buy their books because it is quick and easy,” he said.

Yes people are still reading, so that’s some good news, but how they are reading is changing. E-books sell out during the holidays and you can see people reading their tablets on the morning commute. Some have strong feelings about them, on both sides, but the devices do have their benefits.

“In a way, I think it’s kind of a good thing to get kids reading since this generation of kids are so used to technology,” Buchholz said. “But for me, personally, I will never own an electronic reading device.”

At the end of the day, as long as you are reading and becoming informed, it does not matter what platform you use to do so. All content is a way of connection, and it brought thousands in to celebrate.

“Reading is a solitary experience, but people like to share what they find, so it becomes a celebration,” Jonas said.

[Via: The Idea Forge]

About Allison Matyus