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Ever increasing horror

Keith&Co.

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I'm here...
Yvub5Lr.jpg
I can't even... i mean... aaaaagh!
I read. I have a book in the car at all times. I have one by the bed, one by each toilet, four by my desk.
When i was in high school, i babysat a 4year old. The only things to read in the entire house was one fabric book and the phone book. For three days after tgat, i was able to converse with authority on the relative density of people named Johnson in the towns of Jerome, Buhl, Filer, Wendell, and Twin Falls.
 

Politesse

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No surprise here. My students, most of whom are in their first or second year of college, have often commented to me that they have never read a book outside the context of school, and/or that they have never had the experience of enjoying the reading of a book; it has always been an occasion for confusion and public ridicule in their experience rather than any sort of entertainment. So it isn't surprising that they do not pursue the habit after graduation.
 

rousseau

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There are a few things going on.

For one, books cost money, time, and energy, things that most of us don't have. Second, they take reasonable literacy skills, which again takes out a chunk of people. And lastly, for many people reading is literally too unexciting for them to enjoy (think about people on the extroverted side of the spectrum).

Like sky-diving, clubbing, or any other hobby, reading is an activity that appeals to a specific segment of any population. And what's more, those who do read are almost universally reading fluffy fiction that's not much different from watching TV.

Don't ask me how I know this :).
 

Politesse

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There are a few things going on.

For one, books cost money, time, and energy, things that most of us don't have. Second, they take reasonable literacy skills, which again takes out a chunk of people. And lastly, for many people reading is literally too unexciting for them to enjoy (think about people on the extroverted side of the spectrum).

Like sky-diving, clubbing, or any other hobby, reading is an activity that appeals to a specific segment of any population. And what's more, those who do read are almost universally reading fluffy fiction that's not much different from watching TV.

Don't ask me how I know this :).

Haha, that too. This former librarian can attest that between serious academic studies of important issues, and smutty romance novels, there is no contest whatsoever. :D
 

rousseau

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There are a few things going on.

For one, books cost money, time, and energy, things that most of us don't have. Second, they take reasonable literacy skills, which again takes out a chunk of people. And lastly, for many people reading is literally too unexciting for them to enjoy (think about people on the extroverted side of the spectrum).

Like sky-diving, clubbing, or any other hobby, reading is an activity that appeals to a specific segment of any population. And what's more, those who do read are almost universally reading fluffy fiction that's not much different from watching TV.

Don't ask me how I know this :).

Haha, that too. This former librarian can attest that between serious academic studies of important issues, and smutty romance novels, there is no contest whatsoever. :D

I don't read too much fiction, but was getting at that it took me reading an enormous amount of non-fiction to understand why people don't read.

I recall a few years ago when I was really getting into topical books at a quick pace, I thought I was unlocking the secrets of the universe, and I couldn't wait to share with people. On Goodreads I'd review book after book, so others could find and read about the same books. Then over time I realized - absolutely nobody I knew cared about any of that, and their eyes probably glazed over just reading the titles of books I read.

And honestly? That's fine. In my opinion there's a pernicious idea that if we suddenly just have the right education system, expose people to the right things, or what have you, then all will be right in the world and we won't end up with people like Trump in power. But that's fundamentally not how people work - for most people their primary concern is making enough money to feed/house themselves, raise children, and not starve to death before they die. Which is why reading is pretty much the purview of wealthy, educated introverts.
 

Politesse

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Which is why reading is pretty much the purview of wealthy, educated introverts.
Actually, I don't think that's true either. There may be access issues, but literacy is not the exclusive province of the wealthy. I mean speaking of the library, a lot of people hated the unhomed population that often spent their days there. But I found in conversation that they tended to be extremely intelligent and well-informed. When you live part-time in a library, reading presents itself as a logical hobby.
 

rousseau

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Which is why reading is pretty much the purview of wealthy, educated introverts.
Actually, I don't think that's trrue either. There may be access issues, but literacy is not the exclusive province of the wealthy. I mean speaking of the library, a lot of people hated the unhomed population that often spent their days there. But I found in conversation that they tended to be extremely intelligent and well-informed. When you live part-time in a library, reading presents itself as a logical hobby.

Oh I agree with you there - I was mainly referring to access. Those who read the most are typically people who can afford books and have leisure time, but the hobby as a whole is definitely much more widespread than it once was.
 

Loren Pechtel

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I disagree on the last one. Reading alone isn't going to make you an expert, period.

And what counts as a "bookstore"? I haven't set foot in a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the last 5 years, in that time everything new has been electronic. That doesn't mean I don't read, it just means I don't read dead-tree anymore.
 

Politesse

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Speaking as an "expert" in an uncommon field, it's not that hard to put yourself in the top one hundred, as long as your chosen field isn't one of the five or six things your undergraduate advisor suggested as marketable degrees. I mean, I probably know more about the very specific topic I did my Master's Thesis on than anyone now living, not that anyone besides me particularly cares. :D

I also don't think reading alone will get you there, though, especially if all you read is books.
 

Angry Floof

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That graphic is depressing. I've seen it before and it's depressing every time.

I do most of my reading online or through Kindle these days, but I can't imagine not reading anything all day. I suppose I've had days in my life where I went the whole day without reading something, as in anything other than everyday signs or lists or whatever and not actual books or articles.
 

DrZoidberg

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View attachment 29655
I can't even... i mean... aaaaagh!
I read. I have a book in the car at all times. I have one by the bed, one by each toilet, four by my desk.
When i was in high school, i babysat a 4year old. The only things to read in the entire house was one fabric book and the phone book. For three days after tgat, i was able to converse with authority on the relative density of people named Johnson in the towns of Jerome, Buhl, Filer, Wendell, and Twin Falls.

It means nothing. We have access to more text than ever before. We are reading more than ever before. We're just not reading books like we used to. New research that I've read suggests that young people, not only, read and write more than ever, they also read and write better than ever. On average.

Because of how much people write, the mean quality of writing is worse. But when tested on skill kids are better.

So I'm not worried.

Authors are horrified because it means the obvious revenue model for them is threatened. They'll need to be more creative in how they make money, and nobody likes having to be creative. Because the average writing skill has gone up authors are less special today. Which means there's more good books being produced. Nobody likes competition.

I love this new world of multi media and interactive communication. Like this forum for example. So I think you do to.
 
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DrZoidberg

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I do find libraries interesting. The book is becoming less and less the chosen media from which to read text. The libraries are wed to this one way of reading books. They're starting to become more creative. They've expanded to audiobooks. Some are hosting Maker Spaces. But overall they've becoming state financed ghostly and empty shells devoid of function. I think that's a shame. When I was a kid I did not have peace and quiet at home. I came from a very chaotic home. Libraries was a refuge for me.

I think we should convert libraries to a sort of temples of reading. Contemplative calm spaces in an urban environment, where people can read whatever they bring.

Because libraries do NOT need to provide books anymore. Nobody needs a library for that. They should be spaces for reading. Not finding books.
 

rousseau

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I do find libraries interesting. The book is becoming less and less the chosen media from which to read text. The libraries are wed to this one way of reading books. They're starting to become more creative. They've expanded to audiobooks. Some are hosting Maker Spaces. But overall they've becoming state financed ghostly and empty shells devoid of function. I think that's a shame. When I was a kid I did not have peace and quiet at home. I came from a very chaotic home. Libraries was a refuge for me.

I think we should convert libraries to a sort of temples of reading. Contemplative calm spaces in an urban environment, where people can read whatever they bring.

Because libraries do NOT need to provide books anymore. Nobody needs a library for that. They should be spaces for reading. Not finding books.

I don't know. I agree that the value proposition of the book has definitely changed since the rise of the internet, but there is a lot of information in paper books. And in that way libraries act as a centralized collection that really can't be acquired any other way. Fewer people are making use of those collections, but really - was there ever a massive market for libraries? It's definitely shrunk, but I don't think there's ever been groups of 19 year olds headed to the library on a Saturday night.

I'm a good case in point - I've been making use of the libraries at the University of Western Ontario for three years. Their collection is among the best in the world, and I'm literally a different person because of my access to it. Does the lack of a high quantity of people making use of it negate it's value for the few people who do? When we no longer have access to the great books of the last century something major will be lost.

And the thing is - new academic scholarship is now being created at a faster pace than it ever was before. Without these books on a library shelf, they'll be entirely inaccessible.

To me the library isn't something we do because of some scientific formula with some type of impact on society for the good, it's something we do because books are fantastic, and it's great to make them available.
 

DrZoidberg

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I do find libraries interesting. The book is becoming less and less the chosen media from which to read text. The libraries are wed to this one way of reading books. They're starting to become more creative. They've expanded to audiobooks. Some are hosting Maker Spaces. But overall they've becoming state financed ghostly and empty shells devoid of function. I think that's a shame. When I was a kid I did not have peace and quiet at home. I came from a very chaotic home. Libraries was a refuge for me.

I think we should convert libraries to a sort of temples of reading. Contemplative calm spaces in an urban environment, where people can read whatever they bring.

Because libraries do NOT need to provide books anymore. Nobody needs a library for that. They should be spaces for reading. Not finding books.

I don't know. I agree that the value proposition of the book has definitely changed since the rise of the internet, but there is a lot of information in paper books. And in that way libraries act as a centralized collection that really can't be acquired any other way. Fewer people are making use of those collections, but really - was there ever a massive market for libraries? It's definitely shrunk, but I don't think there's ever been groups of 19 year olds headed to the library on a Saturday night.

I'm a good case in point - I've been making use of the libraries at the University of Western Ontario for three years. Their collection is among the best in the world, and I'm literally a different person because of my access to it. Does the lack of a high quantity of people making use of it negate it's value for the few people who do? When we no longer have access to the great books of the last century something major will be lost.

And the thing is - new academic scholarship is now being created at a faster pace than it ever was before. Without these books on a library shelf, they'll be entirely inaccessible.

To me the library isn't something we do because of some scientific formula with some type of impact on society for the good, it's something we do because books are fantastic, and it's great to make them available.

I haven't opened a paper book since the Kindle came out. I read a lot. If I can't find a book in an e-book store I can find it on a pirate site. Project Gutenberg has every classic in the world.

This Christmas I spent a week inside of a lake in a volcano in Nicaragua. While sitting on my ass watching the view, I wanted to read a book. Three clicks later I had the book on my Kindle and I was reading it.

This development isn't going to unwind and stop. It's only an ever accelerating development.
 

rousseau

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I do find libraries interesting. The book is becoming less and less the chosen media from which to read text. The libraries are wed to this one way of reading books. They're starting to become more creative. They've expanded to audiobooks. Some are hosting Maker Spaces. But overall they've becoming state financed ghostly and empty shells devoid of function. I think that's a shame. When I was a kid I did not have peace and quiet at home. I came from a very chaotic home. Libraries was a refuge for me.

I think we should convert libraries to a sort of temples of reading. Contemplative calm spaces in an urban environment, where people can read whatever they bring.

Because libraries do NOT need to provide books anymore. Nobody needs a library for that. They should be spaces for reading. Not finding books.

I don't know. I agree that the value proposition of the book has definitely changed since the rise of the internet, but there is a lot of information in paper books. And in that way libraries act as a centralized collection that really can't be acquired any other way. Fewer people are making use of those collections, but really - was there ever a massive market for libraries? It's definitely shrunk, but I don't think there's ever been groups of 19 year olds headed to the library on a Saturday night.

I'm a good case in point - I've been making use of the libraries at the University of Western Ontario for three years. Their collection is among the best in the world, and I'm literally a different person because of my access to it. Does the lack of a high quantity of people making use of it negate it's value for the few people who do? When we no longer have access to the great books of the last century something major will be lost.

And the thing is - new academic scholarship is now being created at a faster pace than it ever was before. Without these books on a library shelf, they'll be entirely inaccessible.

To me the library isn't something we do because of some scientific formula with some type of impact on society for the good, it's something we do because books are fantastic, and it's great to make them available.

I haven't opened a paper book since the Kindle came out. I read a lot. If I can't find a book in an e-book store I can find it on a pirate site. Project Gutenberg has every classic in the world.

This Christmas I spent a week inside of a lake in a volcano in Nicaragua. While sitting on my ass watching the view, I wanted to read a book. Three clicks later I had the book on my Kindle and I was reading it.

This development isn't going to unwind and stop. It's only an ever accelerating development.

I agree. Give it a few decades and the e-format will become more prominent, but I don't think we're ready to do away with paper yet. The amount of relevant scholarship that doesn't exist in e-format is still pretty enormous.
 

Politesse

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I do find libraries interesting. The book is becoming less and less the chosen media from which to read text. The libraries are wed to this one way of reading books. They're starting to become more creative. They've expanded to audiobooks. Some are hosting Maker Spaces. But overall they've becoming state financed ghostly and empty shells devoid of function. I think that's a shame. When I was a kid I did not have peace and quiet at home. I came from a very chaotic home. Libraries was a refuge for me.

I think we should convert libraries to a sort of temples of reading. Contemplative calm spaces in an urban environment, where people can read whatever they bring.

Because libraries do NOT need to provide books anymore. Nobody needs a library for that. They should be spaces for reading. Not finding books.

That is very much the modern American novel; unless you're in a very poor neighborhood or a Republican state, most new libraries these days have the appearance of comfortable atria where people can come, mingle, use computers or wifi, take classes, and so forth.
 

Politesse

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I agree. Give it a few decades and the e-format will become more prominent, but I don't think we're ready to do away with paper yet. The amount of relevant scholarship that doesn't exist in e-format is still pretty enormous.
Or is absurdly expensive for the average person to access that way, $50-60USD to download a journal article, equal pricing for paper/digital textbooks...
 

WAB

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View attachment 29655
I can't even... i mean... aaaaagh!
I read. I have a book in the car at all times. I have one by the bed, one by each toilet, four by my desk.
When i was in high school, i babysat a 4year old. The only things to read in the entire house was one fabric book and the phone book. For three days after tgat, i was able to converse with authority on the relative density of people named Johnson in the towns of Jerome, Buhl, Filer, Wendell, and Twin Falls.

It means nothing. We have access to more text than ever before. We are reading more than ever before. We're just not reading books like we used to. New research that I've read suggests that young people, not only, read and write more than ever, they also read and write better than ever. On average.

Because of how much people write, the mean quality of writing is worse. But when tested on skill kids are better.

So I'm not worried.

Authors are horrified because it means the obvious revenue model for them is threatened. They'll need to be more creative in how they make money, and nobody likes having to be creative. Because the average writing skill has gone up authors are less special today. Which means there's more good books being produced. Nobody likes competition.

I love this new world of multi media and interactive communication. Like this forum for example. So I think you do to.

Great post.

I don't read paper books anymore. It's either my Kindle or Gutenberg. I don't even miss the 'real' book experience - except maybe the smell.
 

rousseau

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I agree. Give it a few decades and the e-format will become more prominent, but I don't think we're ready to do away with paper yet. The amount of relevant scholarship that doesn't exist in e-format is still pretty enormous.
Or is absurdly expensive for the average person to access that way, $50-60USD to download a journal article, equal pricing for paper/digital textbooks...

That too. Some of the books I've read from Western are so rare that the price really creeps up for a physical copy as well, some approaching 200 CDN.
 

Treedbear

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I watch a lot of CSPAN, and I find that now that everyone is zooming from their homes rather than meeting together in Congress, various institutes, and Book Festivals, etc, it's obvious that the people who are considered the opinion experts read a great deal. Before, when the pc was the symbol of erudition, there would always be a pc monitor somewhere in the background. Now of course people are facing the pc. But the background of choice is almost always a massive array of packed bookcases. I'm not sure what that implies, but books are certainly gaining status, if only as a symbol.
 

Politesse

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I watch a lot of CSPAN, and I find that now that everyone is zooming from their homes rather than meeting together in Congress, various institutes, and Book Festivals, etc, it's obvious that the people who are considered the opinion experts read a great deal. Before, when the pc was the symbol of erudition, there would always be a pc monitor somewhere in the background. Now of course people are facing the pc. But the background of choice is almost always a massive array of packed bookcases. I'm not sure what that implies, but books are certainly gaining status, if only as a symbol.

Ha, I love playing sherlock on people's reading choices in lieu of listening to whatever nonsense they are saying.
 

Loren Pechtel

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I haven't opened a paper book since the Kindle came out. I read a lot. If I can't find a book in an e-book store I can find it on a pirate site. Project Gutenberg has every classic in the world.

This Christmas I spent a week inside of a lake in a volcano in Nicaragua. While sitting on my ass watching the view, I wanted to read a book. Three clicks later I had the book on my Kindle and I was reading it.

This development isn't going to unwind and stop. It's only an ever accelerating development.

I agree. Give it a few decades and the e-format will become more prominent, but I don't think we're ready to do away with paper yet. The amount of relevant scholarship that doesn't exist in e-format is still pretty enormous.

These days dealing with scanned images is good enough even if it's not as good as something like .epub that can be reformatted on the fly. I expect the switch to e-versions to accelerate.
 

southernhybrid

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I lost my love of fiction about 20 years ago. Then I went through a period of reading lots of nonfiction books. I rarely finish a book anymore, but I probably have 10 started on my kindle. Just because I don't read books very often doesn't mean that I don't read. I spend hours reading articles in the NYTImes, Business news, world news, US news, Science news, Health news and sometimes silly things like fashion. I look up things on the internet that I'm interested in and sometimes spend hours learning something new. I take my nursing CEUs even though I no longer work, so maybe a lot of us are losing our interest in books, but not losing our interest in reading.

My attention span is too short to sit and read a book for hours. By the time I get a chance to read a book, I usually fall asleep within 30 minutes.
 

rousseau

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I haven't opened a paper book since the Kindle came out. I read a lot. If I can't find a book in an e-book store I can find it on a pirate site. Project Gutenberg has every classic in the world.

This Christmas I spent a week inside of a lake in a volcano in Nicaragua. While sitting on my ass watching the view, I wanted to read a book. Three clicks later I had the book on my Kindle and I was reading it.

This development isn't going to unwind and stop. It's only an ever accelerating development.

I agree. Give it a few decades and the e-format will become more prominent, but I don't think we're ready to do away with paper yet. The amount of relevant scholarship that doesn't exist in e-format is still pretty enormous.

These days dealing with scanned images is good enough even if it's not as good as something like .epub that can be reformatted on the fly. I expect the switch to e-versions to accelerate.

I haven't seen that myself. Most scanned books I've read are of questionable quality and hard to read. It's ok if the books are free from a source like Gutenberg, but not great for anyone who's serious about the book. It's definitely something, but I wouldn't call it a replacement until the technology is better.
 

DrZoidberg

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I agree. Give it a few decades and the e-format will become more prominent, but I don't think we're ready to do away with paper yet. The amount of relevant scholarship that doesn't exist in e-format is still pretty enormous.
Or is absurdly expensive for the average person to access that way, $50-60USD to download a journal article, equal pricing for paper/digital textbooks...

But that has to do with the system for how universities and research is financed. Everybody understands the article isn't worth that money. But everybody plays along because they realize that this is how the machine keeps spinning.

It will change though. Since the average person is more scientifically litterate than ever before (are are therefore able to read and understand complex papers), and since universities get a lot of state funding, people aren't going to put up with this system. Especially now since even mainstream press is increasingly becoming scientific fake news. It's more important than ever to have cheap access to the source material.

This system has worked for the first 300 years. Time to change it. But it will. I'm not worried. Increasingly publications are becoming free to read. I think that is where we're heading. And universities will find other ways to get financing.
 

DrZoidberg

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These days dealing with scanned images is good enough even if it's not as good as something like .epub that can be reformatted on the fly. I expect the switch to e-versions to accelerate.

I haven't seen that myself. Most scanned books I've read are of questionable quality and hard to read. It's ok if the books are free from a source like Gutenberg, but not great for anyone who's serious about the book. It's definitely something, but I wouldn't call it a replacement until the technology is better.

Don't you think that has to do with when it was scanned? A lot of books were made into PDF's in the 90'ies and early 00'ies. And they are all shit. It's only very recently scanning technology has reached a standard that can put it straight into plain text (rather than pictures). So while we still have loads of garbage PDF's in the databases, they'll be replaced soon. Now there's cheap machines that can automatically scan a whole book in minutes and put it into raw text. So I'm not worried.
 

Loren Pechtel

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These days dealing with scanned images is good enough even if it's not as good as something like .epub that can be reformatted on the fly. I expect the switch to e-versions to accelerate.

I haven't seen that myself. Most scanned books I've read are of questionable quality and hard to read. It's ok if the books are free from a source like Gutenberg, but not great for anyone who's serious about the book. It's definitely something, but I wouldn't call it a replacement until the technology is better.

Don't you think that has to do with when it was scanned? A lot of books were made into PDF's in the 90'ies and early 00'ies. And they are all shit. It's only very recently scanning technology has reached a standard that can put it straight into plain text (rather than pictures). So while we still have loads of garbage PDF's in the databases, they'll be replaced soon. Now there's cheap machines that can automatically scan a whole book in minutes and put it into raw text. So I'm not worried.

Exactly. Older scans are shit. 300 dpi is fine. However, simply OCRing it isn't good enough, you get a lot of mistakes.
 

Toni

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There are a few things going on.

For one, books cost money, time, and energy, things that most of us don't have. Second, they take reasonable literacy skills, which again takes out a chunk of people. And lastly, for many people reading is literally too unexciting for them to enjoy (think about people on the extroverted side of the spectrum).

Like sky-diving, clubbing, or any other hobby, reading is an activity that appeals to a specific segment of any population. And what's more, those who do read are almost universally reading fluffy fiction that's not much different from watching TV.

Don't ask me how I know this :).


I understand the reasons people give but I call bullshit on it being too expensive to buy books. FFS when my husbabd was a poor grad student every single pay day we went to a bookstore and bought at least one book for one of us and often a couple fir our toddler. There were no nights that did not include reading to him before bed and no days that did not include reading to him as well. Sure it was often the same book over and over and over again. I can still recite most of Where The Wild Things Are and Alligators All Around without thinking too hard about it and I know a lot more about dinosaurs and fighter planes and various vehicles involved in construction than one would guess.

We did not have screens—didn’t have a television for a while and I think we did not have a color television until the oldest was well into grade school. Only had a television at all because one was given to us.
 

rousseau

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There are a few things going on.

For one, books cost money, time, and energy, things that most of us don't have. Second, they take reasonable literacy skills, which again takes out a chunk of people. And lastly, for many people reading is literally too unexciting for them to enjoy (think about people on the extroverted side of the spectrum).

Like sky-diving, clubbing, or any other hobby, reading is an activity that appeals to a specific segment of any population. And what's more, those who do read are almost universally reading fluffy fiction that's not much different from watching TV.

Don't ask me how I know this :).


I understand the reasons people give but I call bullshit on it being too expensive to buy books. FFS when my husbabd was a poor grad student every single pay day we went to a bookstore and bought at least one book for one of us and often a couple fir our toddler. There were no nights that did not include reading to him before bed and no days that did not include reading to him as well. Sure it was often the same book over and over and over again. I can still recite most of Where The Wild Things Are and Alligators All Around without thinking too hard about it and I know a lot more about dinosaurs and fighter planes and various vehicles involved in construction than one would guess.

We did not have screens—didn’t have a television for a while and I think we did not have a color television until the oldest was well into grade school. Only had a television at all because one was given to us.

I don't think it's a binary - too expensive or not too expensive. A great deal of people live in extreme poverty and have no retirement savings or prospect of ever having any - how many books are they buying? Some people have modest finances and can afford some books. Those who are the wealthiest can afford the most books, and the highest quality.

I think it should be remembered too that the cost of books isn't just financial, it's energy as well. Reading is more of a physical thing then is usually given credit for. If people are barely eating, something like TV might be a better option than reading because it's more passive.
 
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ideologyhunter

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Gore Vidal predicted the demise of linear type back in the 80s. But several people in this thread have mentioned the voluminous reading of texts online, and I think that's true. I think it's also true that the popularity of dense texts -- i.e., 19th century novels -- is a hard sell for Gen X, Y, whatever has come since. A while back I was in our town library, looking in amazement at the rows and rows of James Patterson novels (that is his name, right?), thinking, Jesus, this guy drops books the way a mama guinea pig drops litters of little guinea piggies. I picked up one of his books, opened it to the middle, and was struck by the brevity of his paragraphs. Some of them were two sentences long. (Some were a single sentence.) Some pages seemed to contain 8 or 10 paragraphs. I thought, no one who is attracted to this kind of writing would get past chapter one of Martin Chuzzlewit. In fact, they'd crack that book open, look at one of Dickens' pages, and quickly reshelve it.
I still meet young readers who are not put off by quality literature that requires an engaged reader who craves detailed, integrated writing. But the trend seems to lean toward the Patterson style, of what cereal boxes call bite-size chunks.
I really don't care that much. There will always be some readers who want to explore the heights of literature. There will be fewer of us, but sometimes that enhances the experience. I love being on the cultural fringe and reading books that are maybe 323,709 in Amazon's sales ranking. If I stuck with the top 20 in sales ranks I'd probably be bored stiff.
 

rousseau

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Gore Vidal predicted the demise of linear type back in the 80s. But several people in this thread have mentioned the voluminous reading of texts online, and I think that's true. I think it's also true that the popularity of dense texts -- i.e., 19th century novels -- is a hard sell for Gen X, Y, whatever has come since. A while back I was in our town library, looking in amazement at the rows and rows of James Patterson novels (that is his name, right?), thinking, Jesus, this guy drops books the way a mama guinea pig drops litters of little guinea piggies. I picked up one of his books, opened it to the middle, and was struck by the brevity of his paragraphs. Some of them were two sentences long. (Some were a single sentence.) Some pages seemed to contain 8 or 10 paragraphs. I thought, no one who is attracted to this kind of writing would get past chapter one of Martin Chuzzlewit. In fact, they'd crack that book open, look at one of Dickens' pages, and quickly reshelve it.
I still meet young readers who are not put off by quality literature that requires an engaged reader who craves detailed, integrated writing. But the trend seems to lean toward the Patterson style, of what cereal boxes call bite-size chunks.
I really don't care that much. There will always be some readers who want to explore the heights of literature. There will be fewer of us, but sometimes that enhances the experience. I love being on the cultural fringe and reading books that are maybe 323,709 in Amazon's sales ranking. If I stuck with the top 20 in sales ranks I'd probably be bored stiff.

It'd be interesting to see some numbers on what people have been reading through the last century. My guess is that there aren't fewer people reading quality writing by proportion, but by total. There are way more options for entertainment these days, so people spend less time in total reading books.

But I can tell you, my grandmother born in the 1920s read some pretty awful fiction throughout her life. My guess is that people like you who go for the rare, hard stuff have always been uncommon.

But at the same time it does seem like there has been a real decline in our average attention spans, so those who do read decent books likely gravitate to more palatable popular books, rather than the densest stuff.
 
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