Last week, season 5 of HBO’s acclaimed adaptation of George Martin’s Game of Thrones fantasy series came to its usual main-character-killing-end. Say it ain’t so, Sir Jon Snow! Predictably, this set of a week-long (and continuing) news reports and pundit pontifications on the shocking revelation (with spoiler alerts) that yet another beloved character from the popular series was killed off. Terms like “shocking,” “devastating,” “unpredictable,” and other “did that just really happen?” complaints filled the blogosphere and pseudo news outlets. Yet, the one takeaway from it all is the harsh reminder that fewer and fewer folks read anymore. Let’s face it, the character of Jon Snow dies in the books (albeit an event that is debated).
And yes, while Martin’s A Dance with Dragons (in which Snow meets his fate) sold in the hundreds of thousands, such figures pale in comparison with the average gross audience of the TV series of nearly 20 million per episode. True, the TV series has deviated at times from some of the plot twists of the books, but in general, much like Jon Snow’s proud papa or stepmom, the fate of these characters is already written down in black and white…in a little thing we like to call…a book.
Now some of the millions of viewers, myself included, likely came upon the TV series and then went out and read the series (others I bet have been doing the same with the Walking Dead comic book series) but the simple abundance of media stories detailing the shocking unforeseen fallout of Snow’s demise can’t help but make me realize how reading is continually losing out to other forms of media/storytelling.
Going back a decade or so, did you find yourself surrounded by colleagues who were confessing their astonishment that “I can’t believe the killed off Voldemort?” You simply didn’t hear someone ask out loud or in print, “Who would have thought Gollum would die in the end?“ Seriously, anecdotal or not, the best of my recollection is that most folks read the likes of the Harry Potter series or Lord of the Rings before taking the story in visually. At the very least, few internet media outlets were reacting with such shock when such characters met their demise on screen.
And we’re not talking about a film/TV adaption of exactly a difficult or obscure literary read. So our advice to those eagerly awaiting the next season, or another film adaption of a work based on a book, let us let you in on a little secret: if you want to get a jump start on everyone and be in-the-know before all your friends, read the book.