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Recent poll on who's still reading books


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#1 dirac

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 03:47 PM

An Associated Press article on who’s reading books and who’s not.

When the Gallup poll asked in 2005 how many books people had at least started — a similar but not directly comparable question — the typical answer was five. That was down from 10 in 1999, but close to the 1990 response of six.

In 2004, a National Endowment for the Arts report titled "Reading at Risk" found only 57 percent of American adults had read a book in 2002, a four percentage point drop in a decade. The study faulted television, movies and the Internet.

Who are the 27 percent of people the AP-Ipsos poll found hadn't read a single book this year? Nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious.



#2 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 04:07 PM

Oh, well..this is a very interesting topic that can develop a wide range of opinions. Overall, i just want to state that in the past i used to formulate the question "What are you reading?" as a part of a "get-to-know-you" primary conversation. After many dissapointments and all kind of reactions and answers, (many of whom i wish i would never had to hear), i just gave up and stopped asking...

#3 bart

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Posted 21 August 2007 - 04:25 PM

It's interesting that the survey focuses simply on the act of "reading a book." Since content seems not to be a consideration, you have to wonder just how useful this kind of study actually is. :)

#4 Ed Waffle

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 08:34 AM

It's interesting that the survey focuses simply on the act of "reading a book." Since content seems not to be a consideration, you have to wonder just how useful this kind of study actually is. :)


Especially when you consider that "The Secret" has been at the top of the nonfiction best seller lists for months. I realize that it stretches the definition of "book"--while it is printed on paper, bound between covers and sold at bookstores--it is actually a book-like object in which the packaging, marketing and distribution were more important than its content which could have been printed on an index card with room left over for a grocery list.

#5 dirac

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 08:54 AM

Since content seems not to be a consideration, you have to wonder just how useful this kind of study actually is. :)


Does content have to be a consideration? The intention here, as far as I can tell, was to find out if people are picking up anything at all between two covers.

#6 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:02 AM

Since content seems not to be a consideration, you have to wonder just how useful this kind of study actually is. :blushing:


Does content have to be a consideration? The intention here, as far as I can tell, was to find out if people are picking up anything at all between two covers.



Also, no matter what people like Jason Epstein say about people wanting the sensation of holding a book, e-books, like e-commerce is making its way. As long as there are libraries, even people who don't want to spend money on books can avoid e-books, but I have gotten totally used to reading all the big newspapers online, having to pay only the annual TimesSelect fee, the rest free. I don't like it that much, but it's money I have to use elsewhere. So maybe this is :) , but it's certainly pertinent to such discussions, insofar as it does become important to find out if people are still 'picking up anything at all between two covers'. E-books aren't between two covers, and I've read only things, one or two, that I could not get elsewhere--some Dutch Fairy Tales, etc. Every time I read, as recently, that e-commerce has slowed down its rate of growth and that brick-and-mortar stores are now trendy again even with e-shoppers, I am glad to hear it, but I don't know if there is any reason to think that it is more than a trend. Already, some of the best sci-fi novels, like those of Neal Stephenson, have the highest class being the only one to read its newspapers in paper form--100 issues printed per day from an ancient 100-year-old press. Everyone else gets varying degrees of the virtual.

#7 bart

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:05 AM

Does content have to be a consideration? The intention here, as far as I can tell, was to find out if people are picking up anything at all between two covers.

They can design their survey any way they want. My concern has more to do with what is IN the books that are being read, than the mere fact that they are something called "books." Content, I would think, has more influence on culture than format. A study by category, at least, would be interesting.

#8 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:44 AM

Content, I would think, has more influence on culture than format. A study by category, at least, would be interesting.


I think we disagree on this, because I wish it were true as I believe you mean it, and you may believe it is. I think Marshall McLuhan knew what he was talking about with 'The Medium is the Message', and I think media is becoming culture more and more. Many young people are as interested in the iPod as they are in what's on it. In other words, I think media affects and alters content immeasurably, and therefore culture. All you have to do is look at what TV has done.

#9 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:47 AM

Especially when you consider that "The Secret" has been at the top of the nonfiction best seller lists for months. I realize that it stretches the definition of "book"--while it is printed on paper, bound between covers and sold at bookstores--it is actually a book-like object in which the packaging, marketing and distribution were more important than its content which could have been printed on an index card with room left over for a grocery list.


Let's also not forget that it was Paris Hiton's book of choice for a while, according to many pics of her reading it that were recently published in some magazines... :)

#10 Ostrich

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:56 AM

After working in a bookstore for a while, I realised that it in no way necessarily increases your respect for the so-called "reading public". So many of them are quite happy to read whatever it is you push under their nose with enough praise. Similar to how they'll just accept whatever's just showing on TV.

#11 bart

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 10:54 AM

In other words, I think media affects and alters content immeasurably, and therefore culture. All you have to do is look at what TV has done.

No argument about that! :tiphat: My point was about relative influence.

McLuhan's insight about the power of media per se was a novelty at the time. He may have exagerrated this -- and underplayed the matter of content -- for polemic effect.

A brillliant film, a tv mixed-media documentary about an important issue, a thoughtful website exploring significant topics through art, even an "e-book" by a serious writer -- all have greater worth, it seems to me, than many of the products currently available which, merely by virtue of being printed on paper and bound between covers that are more or less hard, are entitled to call themselves "books."

I feel similarly about those who praise "reading" without regard to that which is being read. "Reading" means radically different things when one person means reading Tolstoy and another means reading recipes, and most mean something in between. (Not that there's anything wrong with reading recipes, of course.)

There have been societies where literacy was rare and very difficult to achieve. In these societies (think of the traditional Jewish communities of Eastern Europe), great honor was given to the "book" and almost magical qualities were assigned to the act of reading. In our day, when almost everyone can read something or other, different standards seem called for.

#12 dirac

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 12:21 PM

In other words, I think media affects and alters content immeasurably, and therefore culture.

Yes, indeed.

So many of them are quite happy to read whatever it is you push under their nose with enough praise.


Thanks for commenting, Ostrich. But..... maybe some of them were looking for guidance? Isn’t that a good thing? You were the one who was there, of course, but when I did a brief summer stint in a bookstore I encountered many well-intentioned customers who just needed some help.

#13 carbro

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 02:37 PM

In other words, I think media affects and alters content immeasurably, and therefore culture. All you have to do is look at what TV has done.

No argument about that! :tiphat:

Well, now. Not so fast. I don't think the difference between e-books and paper books is so great as to change the experience. Being of a certain age, I prefer turning pages to scrolling down. Of course, movie adaptations can be nothing at all like the source material. Even audio books -- does the actor emphasize the same words you would? insert the same inflections? -- change the experience. But when we take in the words from the surface we're facing, isn't reading Great Expectations still reading Great Expectations?

And by "books," does this survey include, say, Zagat guides?

#14 dirac

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 03:15 PM

I don't think the difference between e-books and paper books is so great as to change the experience. Being of a certain age, I prefer turning pages to scrolling down. Of course, movie adaptations can be nothing at all like the source material. Even audio books -- does the actor emphasize the same words you would? insert the same inflections? -- change the experience. But when we take in the words from the surface we're facing, isn't reading Great Expectations still reading Great Expectations?


Yes and no. Format does affect content (and style). The novels of Dickens, for example, tend to have chapters with cliffhanger endings because his novels were serialized and it was a good idea to leave ‘em wanting more. Had his novels not appeared in that form at first, it’s possible he would have composed them somewhat differently. We are far too early into what may be the era of the e-book (I think that announcements of the demise of the old kind of book are still premature) to tell, but it’s possible that writers may write differently as and if the reading styles of the audience changes. Would this be as radical a change as the one after pre-printing press era, when poems and stories largely ceased to be heard in groups by a live audience and began to be read on the page by one solitary reader? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be significant differences, as time goes by, in reading from the printed page and reading from screens.

#15 carbro

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 03:51 PM

[W]hen we take in the words from the surface we're facing, isn't reading Great Expectations still reading Great Expectations?

Yes and no. Format does affect content (and style). The novels of Dickens, for example, tend to have chapters with cliffhanger endings because his novels were serialized and it was a good idea to leave 'em wanting more. Had his novels not appeared in that form at first, it's possible he would have composed them somewhat differently.

Excellent point, dirac, and shame on me for choosing my example so carelessly. :tiphat:


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