Remember, you read it here first
Here’s some research hot off the presses — the printed book, far from dead, is resurging in popularity (and not just ones for adults to colour in, either).
This is the study’s methodology: me stickybeaking on what others are doing on trains, planes, ships and in cafes over summer. Let’s call it experiential learnings.
But first, the bad news. I am positively the last person on my morning rail commute reading a print newspaper and it saddens me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my various iDevices, but I prefer to be led serendipitously to interesting reading by good layout, a stunning photograph or snappy headline on a printed page.
A paper is such an unusual item, however, that just recently my turning a broadsheet page earned a harrumph from a fellow traveller in the train’s quiet carriage. The etiquette of such carriages is no loud conversations, phone talk or audible music. On my rail line, you confront the non-compliant only after totting up the cost of dental implants. But I’ve been turning broadsheet pages professionally and crisply all my life. Page rustlers of the world unite, ours is not a noise crime!
Many of my fellow train travellers are ferociously fiddling on their mobiles — game playing, I suspect — and scrolling through pictures. Some Kindle reading is going on, but I have noticed the return of the paperback, across sex and age groups. Nothing beats the paperback, eh? Flexible, easy to stow, it was invented for life on the move. Drop the book, so what? No ugly crack to stare through for all time. I’m proud to have shelves stacked with weather-beaten books, the pages of which sport better tans than I could ever achieve. On board Ovation of the Seas, the largest passenger ship to visit Australia, I note paperbacks everywhere — true, often acting as placekeepers on sun lounges. Clive Cussler seems to be the go; is there a secret society of the American crime writer on the cruise, I wonder? This is a hi-tech ship and promises the fastest internet at sea, but everyone seems to be taking time out from mobiles.
A few weeks later, on the luxury Seabourn Encore, there are not so many paperbacks, but more leatherbound books of destinations and expeditions, and, joy of joys, faxed editions of international newspapers.
My summer travel has also taken me by air from Sydney to Perth and Singapore. Terminal shops are robustly stocked with “airport” novels (there’s Cussler) and an assistant says sales are brisk. But I notice more reading going on in departure lounges than during the flights.
You remember how it once was — the lone light on overhead, just gotta get these last 500 pages read before we land in two hours. My guess is personalised in-flight entertainment (gotta get through a whole box set) and tighter restrictions on carry-on luggage mean not so many books are making it on board.
Don’t take my research as the basis of a business plan, but I observe that a new bookshop has opened at the local shopping mall. It makes a nice change from another brand of running shoe, of which I have a few, or a hair salon, for which I have no need whatsoever.
Susan Kurosawa is on leave.