Thursday, September 06, 2007

Surprise, Surprise

This is old news in many sad ways. According to Associated Press, a quarter of Americans don't read books. I'm not surprised, but I am disheartened. As may be evident from previous posts, I work in a bookstore where I'm constantly bombarded with the axiom "Well, at least they're reading" in response to purchases of The Secret and chicklit titles. That's like saying "Well, at least they're eating" when someone's diet consists of potato chips.

Some key points:
  • "Of those who did read, women and pensioners were most avid readers, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices."

  • "Every other genre - including politics, poetry and classical literature - were named by fewer than 5% of readers."

  • "There was even some political variety evident, with Democrats and liberals typically reading slightly more books than Republicans and conservatives."

  • "Book sales in the US have been flat in recent years and are expected to stay that way indefinitely"

Why must people live up to stereotypes? Reading doesn't have to cost money. Libraries are free, and librarians are dedicated advocates for reading and the freedom to do so. So why, in this so-called free country, do people choose NOT to read thereby choosing NOT to express and exchange ideas? What exactly are they afraid of?

From the Guardian


Charlatan said...

I am convinced there is a lot of reading happening, it's just not in books.

Think of all the text that is the Internet... blogs, forums, etc.

People are not illiterate they just aren't consuming books in the way they used to. We can argue for hours about how important literature is but I think we have to recognize that there are new forms of storytelling that are supplanting the old ways.

I get upset that people only watch blockbusters and don't go to see films that challenge their expectations.

But like most things, I am more worried that I am just hanging onto old paradigms. Perhaps there is a depth to the new forms of communication that we just don't know how to plumb.

Carol Harrison said...

There is reading in the Internet in the forms you say. However, the difference a book presents is time invested; not only in the actual reading but the writing and editing. The ideas have had to peculate longer than most of those presented on the Web.

It's the same with newspapers and magazines. The ideas presented in those media have had a shorter time to come to fruition than those presented in a book.

That's not to say the Internet, newspapers, or magazines are worse or better than a book. But they are different in important ways.

The most significant, I feel, is editorial. More eyes see a book, a magazine article, and a newspaper piece than most material appearing on the Web. That's not just punctuation and so forth, but fact checking, content, libel, etc. No one but me checks my musings. And it makes me wonder how many eyes see the contents of other blogs before the owner hits send.

No question the media by which information is dispersed will change, regardless of HOW one reads, one must do so broadly, openly, and consciously. This AP article demonstrates that it isn't happening in the US and that it will decrease in the foreseeable future.

Sadly, not only will there be more than one child left behind, but their parents will be, too. Is that the echo of jackboots I hear?

Anonymous said...

Tee Vee