Friday, September 12, 2014

Why People Don't Read Any More

I have pushed here on this blog that one of the biggest reasons for sales to be down for authors lately is the lack of readers. People simply aren't reading books any more. I do think we can pinpoint a lot of reasons why this is happening and, if we really want to get those readers back, maybe we need to change how we are doing things.

Let's consider some of the reasons:

  1. READING IS A FORCED ACTIVITY IN SCHOOLS I really don't want to get into a "back in my day" approach to this, but sometimes there is no way around it. We are so eager to "get test scores up" that we are making reading a forced activity in schools. When I was in school, going to the library to get a great new book to read was a highlight for the week. We loved going in and finding something "we wanted to read." Sure we did book reports and maybe we did weekly reading times, but we got to read what we wanted to read! But now, we have programs such as ACCELERATED READER which limits kids to the books they are supposed to read. If the book is not in the computer for testing after they finish reading, the students are encouraged not to read the book. Instead of giving the kids the chance to read for fun, it is now ranked up there with tests quizzes and passing on to the next grade.
  2. THE ANTHOLOGIES WE GIVE KIDS TO READ IN SCHOOLS IS GARBAGE I have sat on countless committees assessing new curriculum for literacy programs in schools. We are given stacks of pre-selected books that some member of the board of directors selected and we are told to select from "these books only." What is frustrating is the quality. It seems that many of these larger publishers are making such an effort to create "student friendly books" or "books with a wide range of choices to showcase diversity" that they have forgotten the quality of the story within it. We give kids the "Readers Digest" version of stories that really miss the mark. The anthologies are "dumbed down" to meet the needs of the given grade. 
  3. STUDENTS ARE TOLD WHAT TO READ AND NOT GIVEN THE CHANCE TO SELF-SELECT - this one goes back to the forced activities in school argument. We now tell kids they need to read books that are "in their grade level." God forbid they read something in a range higher than where they tested at with the standardized testing methods! School librarians herd kids to sections of the library and tell them "this is what you should read." Now don't get me wrong. I do believe in exposing kids to different genres, but when we get to the point we are telling kids they can't read a given book, maybe we are missing something. 
  4. TECHNOLOGY DISTRACTS US FROM READING Look, don't get me wrong. I think technology is great, but when we get into a situation where people are making a decision as to what to do, they turn to their phones, their tablets, their X-boxes and Playstations. Even the ads for these new devices put the ability to read your favorite book below everything else. Take a look at the ad for the Kindle Fire Phone. What are we hyping on the phone? Movies and TV! The phone doesn't even say anything about the ability to be used as a phone. 
     Take a look at the ad for the Kindle Fire. Remember that Amazon really tried to create these for e-reading, but look now. Get the idea. We are hyping up everything but reading.
    Oh sure, there is a link for a magazine but do you notice where the kindle app is at? It's hidden. Even the description of the kindle shows you what they are emphasizing: 
    Our most affordable Kindle Fire—now with a stunning HD display, faster processor, and longer battery life
    • Experience movies, TV, and games, and more on a stunning HD display (216 ppi / 1280x800)
    • Fast 1.5GHz dual-core processor—apps launch quickly, games and videos play smoothly
    • Create profiles and set time limits for children with Kindle FreeTime. Easy-to-use parental controls let everyone enjoy, worry-free
    • Ultra-fast web browsing over built-in Wi-Fi, plus updated e-mail and calendar support for Gmail, Outlook, and more
    • Instant access to over 100,000 apps and games in the Amazon Appstore, including a new paid app for free every day
    Reading? What reading? 
  5. PARENTS DON'T DEMONSTRATE STRONG READING HABITS BUT TELL KIDS TO READ - Kids follow the lead of their parents. They watch and they learn from the adults. But in all honesty, if the parents aren't reading and they are spending their entire time watching movies, turning on Netflix and never reading, why should they kids do their reading. 
  6. YES, THE AVAILABILITY OF BOOKS IS STILL AN ISSUE I am putting this one down at the bottom because I do believe it is the result of much of the stuff going on in 1-5. Bookstores shut down because the consumers weren't buying the products. To get books any more is really a chore. Even within the schools, due to budget cuts, librarians don't even have their doors open all of the time. Our lack of buying books has forced us into situations we are now not liking. 
Maybe it is time to rethink what we are doing. Yes, I understand this was a bit of a rant, but we have to see that maybe the state of the publishing industry was because of what we have done in the past and what we continue to do now. I guess the simple question is, do we want to do anything about it, or are we going to just continue to whine, moan, complain and place blame on other things?

1 comment:

  1. I like your rant!

    There is still that truism of that what "goes around comes around again"; along with "too tight of control causes rebellion" and what's "forbidden becomes tantalizing". Meaning that over time, we could see a shift back, a new desire to find out what is between the covers of those denied books. Any book.

    And then there is this thought. Twenty-percent of the country lives rural. Which means "iffy to none" internet service. And everyone who lives in the country knows that the electricity can go out at any time. And it does. And "everything" goes off. And it stays off until the town gets lit up first. Guess what we do? Read. Real books. Not battery powered.

    So a bit of comfort is this. When the economy is good, people move to the country. And the internet service never gets any better. Push for that great economy.
    Happy end of summer! Kate M.