When you commute on the tube in the morning to work, how many people do you notice are reading something – a book, a magazine, newspapers or just some promotional brochures?? Let me change the question a little: do you read something when you are commuting in the tube, in the train, in the bus, or other modes of transport?
I remember I was riding the bullet train along Japan's Shinkansen Line ( from Toyo to Osaka ) on one spring day of 2004.? The train was speeding at 300 km per hour, taking slightly 1 hour a ?journey which normally took more than 3 hours by bus or an ordinary train. As I enjoyed the breath-taking views and scenery afforded by the villages, hills and other terrains the bullet train traversed across,? I couldn't help wonder at the sight of so many Japanese passengers reading.? Men and women, young and old – they were reading something: papers, magazine, books, even comics.? As for me, I happened to have in my person travel brochures promoting a short break in Wales, plus a tour guidebook describing Pembrokeshire Holidays.
Although we can't really claim to be a nation with the highest percentage of readers, we could at least pride ourselves in that our literacy rate is among the highest in the English speaking world.? We are a nation of many established book and magazine publishers and we have produced several Nobel Prize winners in Literature, though not all of them are native English ( the name VS Naipur comes to mind).
I also found solace of some sort when I recently made to trip to the Far East, visiting some distant relatives and friends whose acquaintances I made when they had a short break in Wales, and who told me they enjoyed greatly their Pembrokeshire Holidays.I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia one day, and when I went into a bookstore to browse some books I found many students and their parents buying school textbooks and revision courses. Later I chatted with the store-owner and he told me that at his store, only such books could sell.? Many of the other types of books just could not sell more than 3 or 4 copies per title. I later read in the local paper lamenting the state of the reading habit among Malaysians and came to realize that, after all, we Britons don't fare too badly as far as reading is concerned.
Naturally, one doesn't expect the average adult reader to read books on evolution biology, Zen Buddhism, I-Ching, the pros and cons of taking soft drugs, and other esoteric or erudite titles. It is fine if you don't read books by Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker or Carl Sagan, or, for that matter, Emberto Eco. But it is one thing if you don't read these more specialist writers and quite another if you don't read at all.? I for my part would be appalled if our young adults choose not even to read brochures advertising the pristine waters off Pembrokeshire when they plan a trip for Pembrokeshire Holidays, or when they propose to take a short break in Wales.
I do find some cold comfort in the fact that though not many of our young adults are reading, or to be more specific, reading hard copies of books, they are ‘browsing' the new form of reading materials in cyberspace.? They are now reading e-books, ezines, blogs, and the contents of websites on their monitor screens or their digital book-readers.? Which is why we do find people who, instead of going for a real short break in Wales, or opt for Pembrokeshire Holidays, become virtual tourists.? Such a development, though not yet pandemic, is now epidemic at least among a large group of our youngsters. ?So much for technology and progress!
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