More books were published in the UK last year than in the United States (206,000 to 172,000). And a recent NEA survey found that the percentage of Americans who read literature regularly has dropped from 57% in 1982 to 47% in 2004. Is this the beginning of the end for books in America?
I think what we're seeing is a shift in what people read, rather than a decline in reading. Fewer people are reading books but more people are reading internet texts on their computer screens. Blogs, newsgroups, entertainment news, sports--a lot of people read these things on the internet but not in print. The internet offers the ability to write and publish to people who in the old days couldn't have expected to see their words in print.
The article says people are reading less fiction, and there can be a lot of reasons for that. People today are looking for shorter publications--blog posts and the like. The average attention span isn't what it used to be.
I'm not impressed with the quality of writing from today's best-selling authors. Dan Brown in no Ernest Hemingway. The writing of some of the most popular writers is atrocious. But they sell because people don't care about that. They offer exciting plots which in today's crazy world might become reality. And everyone seems to buy the same handful of authors and titles. I can't remember the last time I read a best-seller that left me with the impression that I was reading the words of a great writer.
The UK has more books published because, methinks, the average Brit is less interested in spending a lot of time on the Web and staying on top of new trends, and reading is still more of a cultural activity there than here. Americans are in a hurry and are looking for new things at breakneck speed; Brits a bit less so.
tags: books, england, uk,reading, fiction