We all know that reading is dying, right? No one reads books anymore and society is degrading into a moldy bowl of jelly because of it, right?

Well, have no fear. Last night, I spent over an hour in line just to briefly talk to an author while he signed my book. Yes, but Jennie, you’re a book professional! Of course you did! Yeah, but… Wednesday night, at DC’s venerable and awesome Politics and Prose bookstore, there were a few hundred people giving up their evenings to listen to Jasper Fforde read from First Among Sequels, his latest wacky adventure of Literary Detective Thursday Next. (Interestingly enough, falling read-rates are a major cause for concern in the plot…) People crammed the first floor of the book store, with more people standing than there were chairs. Afterwards, the line snaked around the store and people stood. And stood. And stood. Just to get a signed copy and chance to chat.

This is less than a week after bookstores and libraries around the country stayed open until midnight to deal with massive crowds waiting for a book. Less than a week after large portions of the world stayed up all night… reading.

Yep. Reading is defintely dead. We’re all going to hell in a reality show-handbasket.

This is not to say there aren’t real literacy issues out there. But this week? I’m not buying it. 🙂


8 Responses to HELP! NO ONE READS!

  1. poetloverrebelspy says:

    I read an article (probably the last time HP came out) talking about this phenomenon. Reading may not be dead, but more people read only the most popular books, and the top-five publishers account for the overwhelming majority of all books read. Seems like Mike might know where to find the stats on that?

  2. […] Lost Art of Correspondence Kidsilkhaze makes the point that reading isn’t as dead as everyone claims it to be. But what about good, old-fashioned letter writing? Putting pen to paper and pouring out heart and […]

  3. Well DC reads, at least. Commuting on the Orange Line from Virginia makes me feel like I’m in a moving library– virtually everyone is reading: newspapers, magazines, library books…
    Since I work for a magazine, I’m encouraged by the behavior of my fellow commuters. They don’t seem to know or care that reading is on the way out.

  4. Jennie says:

    DC reads A LOT. I went into town on Friday, late morning and everyone was reading. Lots of books (I was even more encouraged to see most of the books came from the library) and newspapers. And not just Express or The Onion or the myriad of other free papers at metro stops. Papers they had to pay for. And even a few they don’t sell at the metro!

    Then, as I bummed around town, everyone was reading. The bank teller had a book. All the people at the salon had a book as they waited for their appointments or sat under the dryer. The people at Cake Love were all reading. It heartened me. And I liked that about 1/2 the books I saw were Harry Potter, because I like the idea that we’re all sharing in this global reading experience. It’s like what libraries wish that [your town here] reads! programs would be like. And this is on a global scale.

    Hilary– as far as what people are reading. I’m not too bothered about that. Right now I’m just concerned that people *are* reading. And, yes, the top-5 publishers account for the majority of reading, but the top-5 publishers also account for the majority of publishing…

  5. Dana says:

    An interesting post about the “worrying” phenonmenon of adults who read Harry Potter instead of literature. A tidbit:

    But what I find more interesting about this passage is that his friends say they simply don’t have time to read and contemplate Serious Fiction. I say to take them at their word—Americans work more hours and have less leisure and make money than we have in the past, which leaves very little time for the leisurely reading of novels. An 800 page book of Serious Fiction—which I love, mind you, so I’m not picking on the pleasures of it—takes much, much longer to read than it takes to breeze through a Harry Potter book. If people are turning to Harry Potter, it’s because they want to have the joys of reading a narrative within the time that’s been allotted to them in our capitalist society to read.

  6. Michael Andersen says:

    Lots of people overestimate the decline in book-reading, I think. The federal survey I linked a few weeks ago found that reading dropped from 61 to 57 percent between 1992 and 2002. Peanuts!

    Indeed, book sellers’ revenue continues to increase, though probably not quite as fast as the population.

    There’s more evidence that “literary” reading, whatever that means, is falling. The federal survey found a 7 percentage point drop in literary reading over 10 years, and a slightly higher 10 percent drop among adults under 24.

    Library nerd Jessamyn West told me a few months ago that she interprets the shift toward nonfiction as a sign that nonfiction is a lot more awesome than it used to be. I’m inclined to agree.

    Jennie, I too have been impressed by the number of people who read either books or periodicals on mass transit. One more reason to oppose cell providers’ efforts to convince cities, on “homeland security” grounds, to provide cellular access in the tunnels!

    (Speaking of getting stuck in the tube, by the way, I’ve realized that when I’m logged into WordPress and post comments from work, the comments never appear. Not sure what’s going wrong.)

  7. kidsilkhaze says:

    But what are we defining as popular and literary? There are several books that I would consider to be literary but have become mass hits. 1.5 years ago, for months, I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing at least 2 people with a copy of Kite Runner. That was on the best sellers list for how long? But yet, a literary book.

    Also, as much as the elitist snob in my snubs my nose at it, Oprah’s book club has made several people look at more literary works. And, in turn, made these works massively popular.

    Mike, I agree that nonfiction has made massive strides lately. It is becoming much more awesome and it seems there’s a lot more well-written, well-researched but not academic-level stuff out there.

    But I’m not sure that cellular access in tunnels will deter mass transit reading. DC has pretty good access. If you’re on Verizon, you get access everywhere on the metro, but everyone’s still reading.

  8. […] Beyond Reading Last Summer, I did a light post about how much people are reading. […]

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