I grew up when the internet was just becoming a “thing.” Though I can remember the age when I had to read encyclopedias to find out information, I’ve also seen technology rapidly changing all around me. One particularly interesting effect of the new era is how the digital age has changed the experience of reading.
I’ve always been a reader. When I was younger, I bought and read as many books as possible, and not that much has changed there. However, social media, e-books, and technology in general have changed many other things for readers. I can remember when the Kindle first came out, and I was both excited to be able to buy books so easily, and wary, because I REALLY needed to own a library like in Beauty and the Beast.
Though a lot of us remember a simpler time for readers, the next generation will have a very different experience while reading. They have entire social media accounts dedicated to books! They’ll be able to read on their phones, and take their libraries wherever they go! Basically, there are a ton of “old-fashioned” reader struggles that this generation will never have to deal with. They won’t even know these struggles existed.
Of course, other generations could say the same thing… Right now I’m imagining a reader in an 18th-century nightgown, shaking her head at how much we take for granted the electric light when reading into the night.
1. Running Out Of Books To Read While Traveling
This was the WORST. You brought as many books as you could fit in your suitcase, but somehow you still read them all within the first few days of vacation. Kids these days won't have to deal with this if they have a Kindle — first of all, it takes up barely any room in their luggage, and second of all, they can get more books at the push of a button.
2. Waiting Forever To Get A Book From The Library
When I was younger, I would get on waiting lists for popular books as soon as I knew they were coming out. These still exist, but with e-book rentals and purchases, you don't have to wait as long to read the newest sequel in your favorite series.
3. Not Understanding A Book For School, And Your Bookstore Is Out Of Cliff's Notes
Remember when you couldn't just google "SparkNotes no fear Shakespeare," and instead you had to either 1) buy the hard copy of the corresponding Cliff's Notes, or 2) try to figure out what it meant by yourself? Yeah. The next generation don't have to do that any more.
4. Blockbuster Doesn't Have Any More Copies Of Your Favorite Book-To-Movie Adaptation
Your favorite book got turned into a movie, but you missed it in theaters! That's OK, you'll just rent it at Blockbuster. What? They're OUT of it? The next generation read that mini-story, but had no idea what it meant, because it will never happen to them.
5. What Is Fanfiction? You Don't Know
Back in the day, fanfiction was the book Shamela by Henry Fielding (I'm talking way, WAY back in the day. And now you're wondering, how old is this girl?). The thing is, you could write it, but there weren't easily accessible forums to read it. Now, there are entire book series that started with fanfiction.
6. Having Difficulty Getting Access To Classics
Thanks to awesome efforts like Project Gutenberg, many classics are being digitized and are now available to read online for free. The next generation will never know the struggle of spending all their allowance on classics. (Just kidding, I still do this. Have you SEEN the beautiful covers they have these days?)
7. Knowing Nothing About Your Favorite Modern Authors
Today, readers can follow modern authors on various social media platforms. Wondering what your favorite writer is working on? You don't have to look far to find out. Meanwhile when I was younger, I had to settle for reading the back flap of the dust jacket and staring at their picture, my head filled with questions I wanted to ask them.
8. Keeping A Hardcopy Of Your Dictionary Near If You're Reading A Difficult Book
Before you could just touch a word in your Kindle to see the definition, you had to look it up in a hard copy of a dictionary. And if there was a phrase in the book in another language? Too bad. You wouldn't know what it meant. Unless, of course, you were reading A Series of Unfortunate Events, because Lemony Snicket very helpfully defined everything for you.
9. Judging Books Based On Their Covers
When I'm in a bookstore nowadays, I usually pick up a book and read the back. If it seems interesting, I immediately check Goodreads to see the reviews. Or I text a few people to see if they've read it. This generation will never have to rely solely on word of mouth or book covers to choose a book, because there are so many resources to help you find the perfect book for your taste.
10. Reading An Awesome Book, And Having No One To Talk To About It
The next generation will never understand the pain of reading an amazing book, and then having no one to talk about it with. If your friends hadn't read the book, you just had to sit in a room and think about how much you loved it, alone. Now, there are entire fandoms for books, and all you have to do is search online to find fellow fans of your favorite novels.
But guess what? Since everyone's online, talking about books 24/7, the next generation will always have to worry about spoilers. So they may not have to deal with all the struggles above, but it's still a bit of a trade-off.
Images: Warner Bros Television, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros (2), Sony Pictures Classics, Lionsgate, Miramax Films, Dimension Films, Paramount, TriStar, Focus Features