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To Read, Or to Watch?

To Read, Or to Watch?

By Tanuj Gupta

Edited by Nanditha Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

-Roald Dahl

If there’s one thing that’s changed most about the generation of today, it is their propensity to read. “Reading is for nerds,” or “Who has the time for a book” is fairly common each time the issue comes up. Here is an attempt to understand a little bit of this attitude.

House of Cards. Game of Thrones. Sherlock. Apart from being TV shows that have more than caught the attention of the youth, they also share another common attribute – they are all based on books. The ramification of this is two-fold. On one hand, there are plenty of people who just watch the shows and don’t care about the source material, and on the other, there are people who take the time to research further by reading the books they are based on. In fact, many of these books actually become bestsellers much after they published as a result of the publicity and interest generated through TV shows based on them.

The point being made here is that in this pursuit of establishing “intellectual superiority” (try telling a Potterhead you’ve seen the movies and not read the books) we often miss out on the commercial aspect of things. At the end of the day, an author needs to make ends meet, and book writing and bookselling, as fulfilling as it might be, needs to be something that can be remunerative as well.

To this end, one can argue that the commercialisation of literature through TV shows is greatly beneficial to the book itself, as it can reach a wider audience, thereby fulfilling the primary aim of a book to deliver its message to the widest possible range of people. However, more often than not, the show has very little In common with the book, and even when it does, it just isn’t the same. For instance, readers have their own impression of what the Iron Throne looks like, which an HBO creative team just cannot replicate. Also, as books have varying interpretations in a lot of cases, the subjective vision of a multitude of people is also given importance as opposed to the single vision of just the author.

All said and done, the fact that the popularity of books does see a marked increase with its conversion into an Audio-Visual format is a truth that cannot be refuted. The youth of today would rather see an hour-long episode than spend an hour reading the same chapter in a book. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it behaves as a catalyst for many individuals to go and pick up the book as well, at the end of the day it still proves to be an annoying trend for all the purists who believe that the source is sacrosanct. While there is no clear solution to this debate, one cannot help but concede that maybe TV isn’t that bad after all, especially when it stirs you to read.

Tanuj is a final year student of B.Com (Hons.) at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Simultaneously pursuing CA and doing his Articleship, the remaining time that he gets he spends debating, reading, writing and procrastinating. Not usually in that order. With a keen interest and opinion on practically everything under the sun, he is always more than enthusiastic to share it with others and can be contacted on for any sort of lively discussion.

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