Kindle, A New Way To Read

Friday, May 30, 2008

Too Many Writers, Not Enough Readers?

Here's an interesting article from the blogger from Writer's Write:

Are there too many writers and not enough readers? Rachel Donadio crunches the numbers.

"It's well established that Americans are reading fewer books than they used to. A recent report by the National Endowment for the Arts found that 53 percent of Americans surveyed hadn't read a book in the previous year -- a state of affairs that has prompted much soul-searching by anyone with an affection for (or business interest in) turning pages. But even as more people choose the phantasmagoria of the screen over the contemplative pleasures of the page, there's a parallel phenomenon sweeping the country: collective graphomania.

In 2007, a whopping 400,000 books were published or distributed in the United States, up from 300,000 in 2006, according to the industry tracker Bowker, which attributed the sharp rise to the number of print-on-demand books and reprints of out-of-print titles. University writing programs are thriving, while writers' conferences abound, offering aspiring authors a chance to network and "workshop" their work. The blog tracker Technorati estimates that 175,000 new blogs are created worldwide each day (with a lucky few bloggers getting book deals). And the same N.E.A. study found that 7 percent of adults polled, or 15 million people, did creative writing, mostly "for personal fulfillment."

In short, everyone has a story -- and everyone wants to tell it. Fewer people may be reading, but everywhere you turn, Americans are sounding their barbaric yawps over the roofs of the world, as good old Walt Whitman, himself a self-published author, once put it. "As publishing has become less expensive, the urge to write my own self has become the opportunity to publish my own self," said Gabriel Zaid, a Mexican critic and the author of So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, a meditation on literary life in an over-booked world. Today, he added, "Everyone now can afford to preach in the desert."

We don't think there are too many writers, not by a long shot. It's a difficult thing just to finish a novel, let alone get it published. It is true that not all writers are of equal quality, but it's always been that way. And we're just not buying the Steve Jobs premise that people aren't reading as much or don't like to read as much.

Harry Potter proved that millions of children will read books when they have something to read that they really love. Many forget the conventional wisdom of the day (before J.K. Rowling appeared on the scene): that children's books could never generate the kind of sales that adult titles could. That turned out to be a myth. The same is true of the doom and gloom crowd today that claim that reading is on the way out.

05/31/08 3:34am