Some good news came out of the Pew Research Center the other day:
Millennials are reading books! And a good deal more often than their predecessors, Generation X. Additionally, they’re more likely to use libraries than the previous generation, for more than just movies and music. (Which, incidentally, is a terrific perk; where else will I be able to get the entire discography of Boz Scaggs for free?) This information flies in the face of the perception of Millennials having the attention spans of newborn puppies.
Interestingly, Millennials do enjoy e-books, but not at the expense of physical books. This is a relief to those of us who wouldn’t know what to do without being able to use a dust jacket as a bookmark, or who would pine for the smell of old paperbacks. We see e-books as providing the benefit of saving room; they prevent us from having to find room to stow a book on a long trip, or even on a subway ride. Why bother when you can read one on your phone?
Additionally, there has been a push recently to replace hefty, unnecessarily expensive textbooks by placing the information on e-readers. (E-readers are any electronic devices that allow the user to read an actual book – it can be a Kindle or a Nook or an iPhone or a tablet, for example.) This makes sense, as the information in these textbooks is often replaced within a year or two by new editions. As long as it’s possible to reduce the exorbitant costs, then it will likely be a worthwhile endeavor.
But what could account for this trend toward auto-didacticism occurring in a generation that has been derided as not being able to read anything longer than a tweet (or a short and sweet blog post like this one)?
There are a few theories. One is that ‘nerd is the new cool.’ We’ve reached a place where knowledge is not just power, but in vogue. It may be a reaction to the previously accepted norm of the 1980s and 1990s, where being cool was actually anti-intellectual. ‘Too cool for school,’ was a popular eighties term. Another theory is that, since Millennials often don’t have the expendable income we’d like to, libraries are a free and easy way to entertain ourselves in our downtime.
Likely, it’s a combination of factors involved. Whatever the case, it is a welcomed trend.