Each year towards the end of the spring semester, seniors huddle in front of the iconic, immemorial academic block at LUMS. Each year, the academic block witnessed something surreal. Students, having evaded each other’s gaze for a good part of four years, now come together, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder and look up towards the sky. They want to get a picture taken. The camera man stands and signals on the second floor of the PDC, and almost instantly, the chantings begin. It’s a countdown. Ten…nine…eight…and just like that, the picture fails to capture the nostalgia, the depression, the ecstasy, the gloom and other innumerable feelings that hundreds of people are going through or have gone through, together. These people are all joined in unison by the colour they are celebrating. For the years they went to the same university together, they enjoyed the liberty of not dressing up in uniforms. After all, university is not like school. It is something much more special. These colours – blue, white, yellow, red, green, orange, purple and some more – are uniforms they wish they never wore. For four years, they wanted out. The sleepy 8:00 AMs, the exhausting evening classes and all-consuming stress of examinations and grading instruments: my people thought they would have it better once they leave. No heed is paid to accumulating suggestions from the batches above them repeatedly saying that good-byes are not so exciting once you come closer to them, even if they are beautiful. Why would a freshman, a sophomore or a junior occupy his mind with the end-of-days festivities? It would not make sense. Anticipation cannot do justice to the moment felt in time, and every batch lets that moment come to it at the time it is due. Today, as I look around my peers all dressed in the same colour, much like a uniform, I understand that the time has finally arrived. If you look closer, the eyes reflect a weariness, a gloom that the rest of the body is oblivious to. It has not been stirred just yet. The good-byes are dormant but they will be ceremoniously performed, and that realization is starting to dawn upon everyone.
I think it is fairly easy to conclude that with the advent of social networking and information being streamed online, the paper-back versions of long stories and short stories alike are facing an uphill struggle to retain readership.
Where once books were the best companions of intellectuals, as they still are, such type of intellectuals are themselves dwindling. A new age has begun. This is the age where you can download ‘e-books’, read them on your kindle, your tablet, your computer or even your smartphone.
This outsourcing of literature has made literature accessible to a wide range of audience. Moreover, the cost for doing so is remarkably low which means the cost at which these books, or more appropriately the ‘e-books’, are sold is also lower than the ones available in the market in a physical, hardcopy format.
However, there has been an unforeseen negative consequence of literature outsourcing as well. When someone is accessing a book via a smartphone, a tablet or a computer, he or she will become more susceptible to ‘distractions’ because these devices offer a variety of other exciting services that are available if internet access is available, or even without it.
These distractions mean that not only would less people actually read the books they have downloaded, but they will tend to read shorter books so that they could ‘expend’ more time in ‘discovering’ the world of internet.