Books vs. Facebook

Ciao a tutti

SO Wednesday night was the 8th event of the British Institute’s centenary cultural programme; I was particularly looking forward to the talk as the speaker was Giuliano Amato (pictured above), twice Prime Minister of Italy. His chosen topic was ‘The Magic of Books vs. The Magic of Facebook’, with Amato’s inspiration behind the choice being the Institute’s beautiful and unique Harold Acton Library.

Amato started with the comparison of books and technology. He made it clear that you cannot achieve the sensual pleasure of reading and holding a physical book with it’s smell and crisp pages to turn. However, he noted that we must not IGNORE the benefits of the electronic page and the immediacy of information which it allows. Amato stated that people often assume that books cannot live in harmony with ebooks, believing that the latter will force libraries to close or make publishers redundant (with companies like Apple becoming the new online publisher). In reality, the issue is not the ebook but social media; this was the premise of his talk.

Giuliano Amato and Mark Roberts the coordinator of Wednesday’s Cultural Programme

Now it’s obvious that nowadays we spend increasingly more time scrolling on our screens through endless social media updates and hence we dedicate less time to reading. But, Amato stressed the real cause of decline in young readers is the phenomenon of short content media or what I would describe as ‘meme culture’. We’re hooked to memes, short funny videos or vines and concise articles on The Tab. On the surface it doesn’t appear to be a problem; a lot of social media content is educational, especially in terms of raising awareness on issues like mental health and LGBTQ rights. However, Amato’s cause for concern is that this transition from books to short content media is hindering young people’s attention spans and damaging our culture.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

Luckily Amato has a plan. His goal is to get the youths reading again by facilitating the discovery of books on social media. Amato intends to work from the inside out, by increasing the advertising of books or the likelihood that we will click a link taking us to a book when we are on social media. He believes it’s the role of publishers and cultural institutions to work on creating online routes where the final destination is books.

Our post talk discussion… We’re not convinced social media content is all useless, but it’s never a bad thing to encourage people to read more!

Today’s idiom is about the current situation with books vs. Facebook:

Italian: Ho una bella gatta da pelare bizarrely meaning I have a cat to peel
Our English equivalent: It’s a tough nut to crack

Happy Saturday!

Mills X

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