“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Book ’Em, Danno

Abby Zidle, over at the impeccably titled Hey, There’s A Dead Guy In The Living Room, picks up on an ABC News story about reading habits in the U.S., to wit:
“Did you all see that poll about readers in the U.S.? That 25% of American adults haven’t read a book in the last year? And that the average number of books a single adult reads in a year is four? This is why the publishing industry is forced to cater to blockbusters. It’s simply too dangerous, bottom-line-wise, to trust that brilliant writing will reach enough people. Especially people like this guy, who won’t read fiction. (I’ve got news for you, buddy – lots of movies are fiction, too.)”
Abby? We don’t want to fall out with you, but we’re not so sure that this is a bad news story – when you factor in illiteracy, poverty, access (or otherwise) to books and the time required to read them, 25% of adults not reading a book, and an average of four books per year, aren’t exactly catastrophic figures. Besides, it’s easy for bibliophiles to forget that a book is just one more way of telling a story, and it’s the story that matters, not the method of delivery. Movie fans, theatre-goers, web surfers, tabloid junkies, computer gamers, et al – it’s all about the right words in the right place. If the publishing industry has plateau’d (“The publishing business totalled $35.7 billion in global sales last year, 3 percent more than the previous year, according to the Book Industry Study Group, a trade association. About 3.1 billion books were sold, an increase of less than 1 percent.”), then it’s incumbent on the story-tellers to find a new way of getting through to their potential audience. The customer, after all, is always right. No?

4 comments:

Peter said...

Hmm, you have an interesting take on a news item that seems designed to horrify all who read it.

I'm not certain Web surfers are looking for or finding stories, though.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Declan Burke said...

Hi Peter -

Consider me officially bonkers in this regard, but as regards web-surfers, well, I reckon they're just piecing together the narrative of their lives in the way anyone who picks out a book or movie or play or song or newspaper article (etc., ad nauseum) does. I believe books - given that we make a conscious decision to read a particular book - have as much to tell us about ourselves as they have to tell us about themselves ... I don't know if you keep a record of the books you read, but if you do, and you read back over the list once in a while, it's like re-reading the story of that period in your life ... in shorthand, perhaps, but there's definitely a narrative.

Apologies for the outbreak of geeky nerdishness. Normal-ish service will be resumed as soon as possible ...

Dec

Peter said...

I used to keep a record of the books I read, but now my blog does it for me, at least for most of my books.

By Web surfing, of course, I mean the almost mindless following of links, and not the reading and writing of news items, blog posts and other content. In a sense, I suppose, any activity can tell us something about ourselves, but Web surfing of the more mindless kind seems too passive, too much a rejection, more like drinking too much than like reading.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Kristy said...

Hmm, as an American reader living in the U.S. I am surprised that the figure isn't higher. I know very few people who read. First things I look for when I walk in a house are the bookshelves (or books stacked in corners, on dressers, nightstands, top of the refrigerator, whatever). Rarely see any. There are always a few really big TVs though.

I clearly need to get out more to find the elusive 75%.