I suppose my short answer to the question at hand is: no. No, TVs, movies, gadgets, and gizmos will not make books obsolete.
And to explain a bit…
With the way technology is advancing and media is shifting nowadays, people have increasing options for entertainment, and plenty of folks don’t do much book reading unless they have to. Sure. Nevertheless, increasing options for entertainment isn’t a new phenomenon.
Take motion pictures and television for example. When the television was invented, people worried about what would happen to motion pictures. Why would anybody take the trouble of going out to the movies anymore when most of those people would have screens to entertain them right in the comfort of their homes?
Yet, for some odd reason, people kept on going to the movies anyway.
And now, even with the availability of YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, DVD and Blu-ray, the ability to watch movies on our TVs, tablets, and smartphones, movie theaters still have yet to become obsolete. We have more options, but those who enjoy going to movie theaters still go.
Has technology changed things? Absolutely. Filmmakers knew they’d have to raise the bar on their art because people would have the option of staying home to watch this new thing called television, if the movies coming out weren’t any good. So filmmakers did just that, raised the bar, and the “silver screen” lived on and still lives.
Yeah, most movies don’t remain only in theaters for as long a time anymore. Subsequent DVD, Blu-ray, and Netflix releases follow original releases sooner. Yet, going out to the movie theater still gives people an experience they can’t get by watching a movie on their tablet or phone.
I’m of the same mind as fellow bookworms I’ve heard from who believe that people who truly love to read books are going to read books. It gives us an experience we simply don’t get from TV, movies, video games, social media, and other forms of entertainment. Besides how enjoyable they are to read, books help us to strengthen our reasoning and critical thinking skills, to keep our imaginations sharp, to become more empathetic human beings, to see and consider ideas from different angles, and to become better at expressing our own ideas through words, when we need to write or articulate.
That’s not an exhaustive list of the benefits of reading, by the way.
As entertainment options increase, though, it becomes more important for readers to deliberately stress and demonstrate the value and importance of books, especially to generations coming up behind us, in the age of all things digital. When I was growing up, my parents made sure my siblings and I had a TV and movies we could watch. They bought us toys and sporting equipment and video games. And they bought us BOOKS. They made sure we had library cards and took us to the library. They started a reading club where the whole family participated. They sat down and read in front of us, so my siblings and I saw our parents reading, not just telling us that we kids should do it (“Go read a book, kid. Get out of here.”) while the two of them vegged in front of the TV all day. 😀 Our parents constantly kept the option of reading before us, and even with all the options my sibs and I have for entertainment and learning now, we still read books.
So, fellow authors and publishers–or “book makers,” if you will: we have to be intentional about keeping our art excellent and improving our craft, as past filmmakers did in their changing times. Book lovers who know the importance of reading have to be intentional about conveying that importance to other people, knowing that there are more entertainment options available, and the options will likely increase with new technology.
Naturally, people who just aren’t into books can’t be forced into loving them. While, of course, everyone should be literate, literate folks are still entitled to whatever methods of entertainment and information consumption that suits them best. But don’t be fooled. Don’t see all the TVs and movies around and people fiddling with their digital gadgets and gizmos, be fooled into thinking it’s impossible for anyone to love or focus on books anymore, and throw up your hands and say, “Welp. I guess books are over.” I might not have discovered my love for books, especially not so early on, if somebody hadn’t deliberately stressed and maintained the awesome “option of books” to me.
And let’s not even go into all the advantages that digital gadgets and gizmos have brought about for books, or we’ll need another blog post to expound.
Books will only become obsolete if book lovers and devotees somehow let it happen. And I don’t think we’re going to do that.