Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fewer Readers--Why?

I wrote in an earlier post about how book sales are down.   Since that time, I've been curious to find out more.  There are a lot of statistics out there, some less documented than others.  For example:

  -   the average North American reads 1 book a year
                                          -  even though e-book sales are up they have not replaced  the lost paperback and hardcover sales
               -   over 3 million books were published  in the U.S. in 2010
           -    a book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in a

There are other depressing and/or surprising statistics on other art forms.   It seems less than 3% of people listen to classical music.   This makes a small pool for symphony orchestras to draw upon for attendance at their concerts.   An even small number favour opera.   If you asked most people I suspect that they wouldn't want classical music or opera or books to disappear.   They just don't want to spend their own time or money on them.

Technology has brought many wonders and advantages that we wouldn't choose to live without but I suspect it is at the root of the issues I raised above.  There are so many other distractions.  Who am I to judge their worth or evaluate their place in the list of leisure activities?



I've read that at one time, not even that long ago if we take the entire human history into account, the only way to hear music was to attend a live performance or play yourself.   Many early pioneer families had a piano in the parlour just for that purpose.   People would travel for hours by horse and buggy to hear a concert, stay overnight and head home the next day after the once-in-a lifetime experience.  It's so much easier now and perhaps taken for granted.



We are so much more blase' today.   Everything is easily available in high definition and surround sound.  Abundant culture and entertainment is available for free.  Not so long ago the potential reader had books--purchased at a book store or borrowed from the library--a newspaper or magazine or the back of the cereal box.  The internet has a neverending supply of reading material.  Is there such a thing as reader fatique?   Probably.

I have previously suggested that reading is a habit that is formed in youth.   Yes, I know that some people start reading in middle or old age but I think that is the exception.   But, because of a multitude of other activities, not as many children and young people take up reading as a free time, pleasurable activity.   Video games seem to have taken over the preferred activity spot.   Movies may occupy second place.

I suspect the creators/inventors of video games designed them for children and teenagers and believed that was their target market.   But the passage of time has shown that the average gamer is a male in his thirties.   

Watching television--some television--is sometimes described as a mindless activity.   At the end of the hard day, you 'zone out' in front of the tube.   Reading requires more alertness, more engagement.   Are we too tired for this?

Can it be speculated that one day there will come a time when there are more writers than readers?

1 comment:

  1. An interesting, but sad post! Thanks for your thoughts on this, Cynthia. When it came to video games, I always told my son that I thought it was pathetic when a thirty year old man spent his time playing video games. When he went off to college, he gave away all of his video games and said he didn't want to spend his time on them. Yay! I couldn't have been happier. Enjoyed your post!