I recently read a news report that in an effort to trim costs, Amazon will close down the Book Depository, a global platform and online bookseller. Known throughout the world, it is hard to imagine selling over 20 million books and being concerned about the economy—but by the time you read this, Amazon has pulled the plug.
My concern is, of course, what will happen to the American market as no doubt analyst are sharpening their pencils right now and wondering what to do with us. I sure hope we are OK. I write this, not as simply an author of books, but personally, I am very quick when it comes to pushing the Amazon button and receiving in the mail two days later a must have book. What a thrill! I confess, it is a borderline addiction. But I do like to read.
Here is the far deeper concern that needs to be addressed. SAT and ACT scores are the lowest since record keeping more than 50 years ago back in 1972. Books, magazines, newspapers, have gone by the wayside for younger generations and now it is all about the screens. Movie screens are dark in part thanks to COVID but also TV screens are lit up thanks to Netflix and streaming. The TV screens are big, bigger and biggest as entertainment rooms are replacing dining rooms. By the way, kids are also glued to their smartphone screens.
So, here is my point—if print dies consider what else might be on life support. Start with civility. You know and I know, politicians cannot print enough money to make us civil. In fact, the more money they give away, it seems the less civil we become. Civility is not about money and politicians. Reading and thinking critically and reflecting upon our own conduct and beliefs while separating fact from fiction requires more than a screen. Start with a book.
Sure, there are audiobooks and podcasts. Yet, it is hard to predict what the results will be if print is gone as reading and literacy continue to decline. Civility is one issue but behind civility there is the need to communicate. Communication often requires writing. Texting is the preferred form these days and it is the only way communication occurs for many. Handwriting and penmanship no longer seem necessary or valued. COVID once again, knocked-off at least, two years of teaching these skills in elementary school and whether or not they will be recovered literally remains to be seen. So too, with grammar and sentence structure. If we leave this all to spell-check, autocorrect and Word Processors, will writing go the way of reading?
Reading and writing and religion. Of course, arithmetic is important but religion is slipping away. According to the American Bible Society one reason for the decline in religion is only nine-percent of adults read the Bible daily. Put it this way, ninety-one percent do not read the Bible daily. As a result, watch the surveys and the polls as people check the box where they no longer believe in God or attend church. The Bible, theology, and ecclesiology require reading. Put it this way, by not reading the Bible—we forfeit the story of salvation—our narrative, our identity, meaning, hope, and a faith community. We can lose it all in one generation. It is time to unplug the screen, turn off the tube, and pick up a book. Such disciplines as silence, study, and solitude await to help the mind and intellect restore the culture and our faith in God.