Since ancient times, human lives and values of society were handed down to the next generations by books. Prior to the invention of writing, the oral tradition, which refers to oral storytelling, served as the earliest form of delivering the stories with cultural meanings. As modern publishing companies keep improving the accessibility of timeless stories every day, wise lessons of old myths and legends are readily transcended to readers.
However, the situation for the paper book market doesn’t have the brightest forecast. Decrease in book publication consistently causes libraries and bookstores to become scarce, even challenging the conventional culture of reading. From news articles to novels, people can now find all reading materials they desire wherever internet is available. Delving into the late introduction of novel reading culture, e-books and audiobooks, the 244th edition of The Sungshin Mirror will envision the future of books.
Does advanced means for delivering written texts increase the number of readers? To get to the point at a stroke, the answer is affirmative. According to research done by School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University, the mean number of books read was the highest for people who utilized both e-books and paper books when reading. The number of readers who employed either paper or electronic books were lower by around half compared to this estimation. It indicates the fact that the handiness of e-books complements certain inconveniences which printed books cause, while paper books make up for the disadvantages of electronic reading devices. It is like having more options for transportation; a better vessel gets people to their destination faster, more efficiently.
Likewise, the recent advent of e-book applications and services in Korea also triggered positive effects in developing a habit of reading. A survey conducted by an e-book enterprise ‘Ridi’ demonstrated that the average reading rate per person doubled up to 2.4 books for people who usually read less than one book per month, after they were introduced to e-reader devices. If yearly reading rate continued to plummet with the old excuse of ‘being too busy to have spare time,’ mobile applications and modern e-book devices are immediate and convenient enough to help people light up their hectic days with delightful stories.
However, the truth is that most e-book readers fail to manage finishing a whole book. An analysis from an article written by Channelyes revealed that the completion rate of e-books was only 7%, while the probability of books selected to be downloaded and briefly opened was 72% according to the users of e-book service Yes24 Book Club. It is in fact a predictable outcome if one considers the unaccustomed atmosphere e-book readers can be put under at the expense of being able to read books wherever and whenever they desire. Unfortunately, a great reading experience is difficult to be achieved by passively interpreting letters into words, words into definitions; it is the attitude a reader takes towards the journey of a protagonist that truly brings them to the world of literature.
In addition to electronically provided texts, there is another favored-yet quite unconventional way stories are delivered today: audiobooks. Audiobooks are especially treasured by people who like to have their cake and eat it. Listening to the story as they toil with other tasks comes as a great benefit for those who never neglect their ambition to read. The popularity of audiobooks even led to the creation of an online service which accredits readers as narrators. In 2021, a mobile application ‘Audio Books Made by Me’ was launched by an e-book company Millie’s Study. Readers can read books out loud and record audio books themselves, using their own realistic voice in this service. Staging readers as performers of their favorite stories, the voice over service aims to engage more people into audio reading by even monetarily supporting some of the most beloved voice actors.
Considering that some of the most classic traditions were conveyed by an oral narration, audiobooks are not as brand-new as we think. Some have questioned and studied the effect that takes place when people read or hear books. Surprisingly, neurological differences depending on the way contents of books are delivered to us were proven to be insignificant, according to a 2016 research done by Beth A. Rogowsky and her fellow researchers. When participants experimented with the way contents were transferred, (electronic text, audio book, or both) mean scores of each group all fell around a similar figure. Moreover, the only factor that contributed to the comprehension ability was each person’s apprehension capability, clearly demonstrating that the ability to understand the plot of a story does not vary by different methods of reading.
While some prefer these evolutionary changes in reading, others doubt the need for more amusing ways to read. Umberto Eco, an Italian philosopher and author, testified to the strength of paper books by dropping a book and an e-book device from a high floor at the same time as a performance. While the paper book was only slightly damaged and wrinkled, the e-book device ended up being completely broken. It portrayed that printed books will never die no matter how far digital advancements progress. Nevertheless, what’s truly immortal is the sense of emotion that endures in one’s heart after reading a good book, regardless of the mean that delivers contents.
By Cho Yoonji Reporter