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Voluntary Illiteracy? Dept.

A piece in the Times about Amazon's Kindle got behind some of the usual statistics about the fact that "no one reads anymore". It's something of a misinterpretation. Those that do read more than make up for the many who don't — in other words, while about 30% of people surveyed recently claim not to have read a book in the past year, another 30% have read at least fifteen in the same timeframe. (Note that while books are mentioned, there's no discussion [at least not here] of newspapers, websites, blogs, etc.)

There's a lot of further nuances to this whole discussion that convince me that reading — not just "books" — is far from dead as a leisure or self-education activity. The web, for one, has made it easier than ever to get your hands on text (hey, you're reading some right now!), and also acquire books in general — something Amazon knows from the inside out, which is part of the reason they tend to be one of the first places people go when looking for a book they can't find. And on top of all that, publishing stands to be a $15 billion industry this year, according to the article's references — hardly a dying market.

Oddly enough, I'm reminded of the video-game market. There are many people who never play video games, never touch them, never bother with them. They're heavily counterbalanced by all the people who not only do all those things, and do them with an enthusiasm that far outstrips expectations.

It is frustrating, though, to encounter people who simply don't read for pleasure or self-enlightenment. One of my pet theories about such people is that a fair chunk of them may simply have undiagnosed or untreated reading disabilities — e.g., they were taught with a non-phonic / "whole word" reading method which often creates functional illiterates — and so reading isn't something they want to put themselves through, no matter what the reward. I'm not wholly convinced we live in a "post-literate" culture except in the sense that people think they can get bigger kicks elsewhere, and usually can.

Maybe this is the best way to put it: We live in a culture where nobody reads the people who grouse that nobody reads anymore.

Tags: books reading writing

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2008/01/26 15:55.

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