It’s kind of a one ‘therapy’ against isolation fueled by the pandemic and the spread of digital technology and responds to the increasingly felt need to meet and share reflections, knowledge and emotions that the pages of a book leave in readers. The phenomenon of reading groups grows, fueled by the never dormant need for sociability but also by the enthusiasm of the small surviving independent bookstores. At Christmas one was born in Sassari, the Koiné Book club, animated above all by women over 40, at the forefront of the category of so-called ‘strong readers’: about thirty people, for now, also residents outside Sardinia, which can be found face to face and also online, for those who cannot attend the monthly meetings on a book chosen by the participants.
Generation Z absent
Few men. E young people are missing from the call, digital natives accustomed to ‘leafing through’ the world from the smartphone and less and less accustomed to the gesture of reading. Generation Zeta that associates a button on social networks with the word sharing. “We were asked by some readers, but our initiative was also one challenge in these times of isolation“, Aldo Addis, owner of the independent bookshop in Sassar, explains to i which gives the name to the reading group. “Some have expressed the desire to share again and we have also had this feeling from the book presentations of the last few months, always very popular, as well as from the resumption of literary fairs and festivals that have had an excellent response from the public”.
An antidote to the effects of the lockdown and also a way to react and reject the habit of closing oneself up and living everything by depriving oneself of sharing. “It is one of the bets for the future,” adds Addis. “The more they tell us that we don’t have to stay close, the more we have the duty to be, obviously in the safest ways from a health point of view. With us you can only enter with a green pass “.
To give the greatest satisfaction are female readers, the hard core of book users and also those more predisposed to share: “Our reading group is mainly over 40, with some rare exceptions, and a few men, all united by being ‘strong readers’ “. “Younger people have greater hesitation in having a scheduled commitment, albeit on a monthly basis, such as that of the reading group”, he reflects Monica Monti who manages the Sassari group, “and they are also those who read less and less. The group is made up of people who are older, more enthusiastic and more involved in this initiative, they want to chat more and love the idea of sharing reading and being able to choose a book together “.
The group offers the opportunity to those who cannot or do not want to participate in the presence of go online on the Zoom platform: who knows that this option may not also be a way to bring the young people more used to having the filter of a screen closer. But in addition to the generational issue, reading groups are tangible proof that digital, despite the most enthusiastic forecasts of two decades ago, has not replaced paper.
The ‘paper’ book resists
“E-books in Italy represent 5% of the market“, highlights Addis.” What seemed inevitable, that is the replacement of the paper book with the digital one, has not happened, there is still a desire for ‘physical’. The digital book has advantages because it allows you to consult texts that you otherwise would not have been able to have, but the paper is a resource that does not pass. Digital is also a fashion, but that it never went beyond that threshold “.
Reading groups are also a way to concretely support independent bookstores that promote and offer a service that large chains cannot give: “The most important message that reading groups suggest to the market is love for reading, but also support for bookstores outside the large-scale distribution circuits “, underlines Monti,” also a way to counterbalance online purchases “.
Those who really love reading cannot give up the bookseller who recommends the book and shares time to comment, share and underline the characteristics of that author or that title. Independent bookstores and their reading groups seem to offer much more than a book to read, they represent almost a welfare, a public, cultural and social service.