Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about movies. Specifically, book to movie adaptations. So many of them are being released or filmed or optioned or whatever that I have to wonder why. Why are all these books being made into movies? Are the books not good enough as they are? Are the movie people running out of ideas? And more important, what would happen to book readers? Would they read less?
So in a very simple, not at all professional research, I set out to find the answers. I’ve actually had all the data since last year, but I haven’t had the chance to post it here. I had to do a simple research for a class a few semesters ago, and I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity!
This research was limited to the students in my university so I’m pretty sure it won’t represent the entire young adult (defined as people between ages 18-35) population in the world, but I think we can still learn something from it 🙂
Do young people even read anymore?
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s heard this question before. Obviously, I would be the first to defend myself. “I do read!” I’d say. But that doesn’t mean that every other young adult in the area could say the same.
So many studies have been done to answer this question, and from what I’ve seen, different researchers came to different conclusions. SLJ (2014) says that ‘reading rates’ have been dropping since 1984 among teens. But Jessica Moyer says that they could be reading just as much but in different ways, like e-books or listening to audiobooks which are not taken into account in other studies because it’s not ‘real’ reading.
One study says that 81% of young adults read books for the purpose of doing their school work or assignments (Zickuhr, et al 2012). It’s completely understandable, of course. I know how much effort and energy it takes to do assignments. But is that all they read? And then there’s another study conducted in a different university that says students are reading less and less because they prefer to be online, chatting on social media and if I may add, searching for memes.
There are so many different answers and I don’t know who to believe! Of course, I have many more articles and research papers on this topic but I won’t bore you with them. So let’s move on!
What happens when books become movies?
Apparently, the book sales in the young adult fiction market have increased by 11% in 2011 and this rise coincided with the release of the movies ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn’ and the first installment of ‘The Hunger Games’ (Harris, 2013). Some say it’s because of the crazy marketing and so the books get an ‘adrenaline boost’ and sales go up.
Vendetti (2013) says that book to movie adaptations “perpetuate laziness” because young adults would rather watch the movie that would only last for two to three hours compared to reading the book which requires them to focus on reading for who knows how long.
After reading a LOT of articles on this topic, I can summarize the key points into pros and cons of book to movie adaptations.
The Pros of Movie Adaptations:
- Emotional immediacy. When watching a movie, all the elements in the film goes directly to the senses without much effort from the viewers.
- It sparks interest among young adults to read something they normally wouldn’t read.
- Helps struggling readers to fully understand the story, the setting, and other literary devices.
The Cons of Movie Adaptations:
- Movie adaptations could contribute to the increase of ‘faux-readers’. For example, if a group of readers is discussing their latest read, the faux-reader could simply watch the movie and know the storyline and important plot points. They probably wouldn’t know the small details or subplots, but they’d know enough to participate in the discussion.
- It inhibits personal creativity and imagination. Reading always lets me go crazy with my imagination. I can picture the way the world looks any way I want. But in movies, what you see is what you get. And I think that it taints the reading experience if you read the book after watching the movie because the way the world looks in your head now looks like what the movie showed you.
- And continuing the point above, there is less personal connection when watching the movie compared to reading the book.
Okay, enough of that. Let’s see the results!
I managed to get about 100+ responses for my questionnaire, and 70% of them are girls.
Most of them are between 18-22 years old, 12% are between 23-27, 11% are 28 and above, and only 5% are between 13-17 years old.
I tried to get respondents from different schools, so the people who answered my questions are a mix of business students, hospitality/culinary students, engineering students, computing and creative media, and mass communication. Of course, there are a few pre-university and high school students thrown in there (13-17-year-olds), but more than 80% are university students.
I tried summing up my findings in one infographic so you don’t have to read so much, but I’m still going to talk about it anyway 🙂
So I found that 39% of the students think that reading is a very important part of their lives. The rest of them prefer watching TV/movies, surfing the internet, and going outside (I know, right? :P).
I wasn’t really surprised to see that it was mostly girls who prefer reading and the boys prefer watching TV/movies. And I also found that the number of girls who picked ‘surfing the internet’ is higher than the boys, who have higher numbers in ‘outdoor activities’.
Then, I asked them how many books they’ve read in the past year. The answer, less than 15! Well, not all of them have read fewer than 15 books. 32% of them actually read fewer than 5 books in the past year! And unsurprisingly, 100% of the computing students have read 5 books or less in the past year. 36% of the respondents have read between 6-15 books and 32% read 16 or more.
When I asked them why they don’t read so much, I got a few answers:
- They have too much schoolwork (assignments, projects, etc)
- They’d rather go to the movies, hang out with friends and/or go online.
- 10% actually said they don’t like to read!!
Another thing that I don’t find surprising at all, is that every single person who participated in this ‘research’ have watched at least 1 movie that was based on a book. I mean, obviously, anybody who’s anybody has watched Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, Twilight, and this list will get longer and longer if I don’t stop. And out of all of them, 61% say that they’ve read at least 1 book that was made into a movie. I’m gonna go ahead and say that the book they’ve read is either Harry Potter, Twilight or The Fault in Our Stars. Oh wait, it could be The Hunger Games. Or LoTR. Okay, let’s not start that list again.
I also asked if watching a movie adaptation makes them interested in reading the book. The answer? I guess you can say it’s pretty even? 55% say they’re interested in reading the book after watching the movie and 45% say no.
The last thing I wanted to find out is which media they think is better, the book or the movie. And guess what? It’s about the same, too! 36% say books are better and 35% say the movie is better. The rest either have no opinion one way or another, OR they say that the movie and the book are two different things.
From what I see, it seems that people are more interested in reading a book after they’ve seen the movie so I guess it’s not so bad. Other than you know, cutting out all the details that make a book awesome.
So from this research, I don’t know if people are reading less because of movie adaptations. I guess they don’t read a LOT, and even if it could be because of movies, at least to a certain extent, it’s also because they’d rather do other things. I’m looking at you, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
I guess there really isn’t one right answer for these questions. So many studies have been done in the past with different results. Some say young adults do read, some say they don’t. Some say movies are good, some say they’re bad. It really depends on where the study was done, right? Different people would have different lifestyles, different habits, etc that would affect the way they read or don’t read. If I were to have a poll on my blog asking you guys if you preferred the book or the movie, I’m almost sure that all of you would pick the book. And if I asked if you’d rather read or watch TV, the answer would be ‘read’.
So what do you think? Do you think movies make people read more or less? What do you think the result would be if you asked these questions to people at your university, or neighborhood? Tell me in the comments! I’d love to read your answers 🙂