It is safe to say the internet has increasingly challenged the importance of books in the 21st century. This is because the internet now provides information that was previously the preserve of books at a much faster rate and in quicker summary. So for many Zimbabweans it appears that there is no more flocking to the libraries or long queues to purchase a bestseller but rather at the click of a button all the information concerning a topic, an individual and even scholars to accompany any theory are made available.
This has been lauded as a good thing. Particularly because it allows for greater access to information through internet. But there is another side to it. The internet however good it may be, has also caused a massive disruption in the culture of reading. Because information is readily available on the net, reading habits for educational, social and entertainment purposes have changed dramatically. It all requires little or no effort from the scholar or researcher . Furthermore, while the internet has devised a new efficient way of online sales where people can buy and sell without crossing any borders let alone their outside door, it has made the traditional book less valuable.
Hence the children of today no longer know the value of books, journal and diaries which in past year were valued heirlooms (hand-me-downs) between generations. Books were and are probably still timeless, as the information was preserved for decades. According to a few street side booksellers in Harare, demand for books is almost non-existent these days and as a result book sales are very low.
A Harare City librarian, who requested anonymity, similarly points out that borrowers and readers of books have decreased significantly. This in turn has caused them to reduce the number of new books that they purchase as well as the fee charged to read and borrow books. The internet has converted novels into online reads, newspapers into blogs. Not even the intimacy of a physical love letter has been spared. Email and chats have become the new medium of expressions of love and affection.
Zimbabwean bookshops ,paper companies and even traditional writers have been pushed into bankruptcy as the print industry becomes less profitable. As it is, perhaps the internet may be more efficient but it has made reading less of a long term pastime. It has not spared the education curriculum nor will it spare the traditional literature book. Nothing is written down these days..ever.