So you can read my books

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Don't forget to vote for my entry in Tessa's OUTSIDE THE BOX blogfest :

Are we the last?

Have writers become an endangered species?

I was reading this morning that the point-and-shoot camera you now own is probably the last you will ever buy.

The smart phone has replaced it. Sure, there are advantages to the point-and-shoot :

including features like image stabilization and larger lenses and sensors.

That does not matter to consumers like Emily Peterson, a 28-year-old graphic designer who lives in Brooklyn and who bought an iPhone 4 in July. “One day I just thought,

‘Wow, I never have my camera with me, when I used to carry it around all the time,’ ” she said. “It’s just one less thing for me to remember, one less thing to carry.”

Newspapers are scrambling to survive. Who reads them anymore? USA TODAY with its many pictures and its snippets of articles is the most successful one out there.

The music store. Every mall used to have one. Now, they are disappearing.

Why bother buying whole CD's when you can download the individual singles you enjoy from Amazon?

Bookstores are facing extinction as well. The ebook is slowly taking over. But worse, why pay full price for a hardback when you can order for much less from Amazon with free shipping?

And who reads for pleasure anymore?

We do, of course. But we are the dinosaurs, watching these strange critters called mammals scurrying around our feet.

Donna Hole wrote me that only one of her four children reads for pleasure. The others never did. Never.

I was a high school teacher for a time, and even then the school library was for assignments only. Very few students ever checked out a book for a fun read.

The kids graduating today seldom, if ever, read for pleasure. They go to movies. They play video games. The guys watch the sports of their choice.

We have become a visual society.

And the children of this generation will have even less desire to read. We learn what we see.

No wonder publishers are downsizing.

Why do you think Nathan Bransford is no longer an agent?

Are we pounding on the door to a castle that is crumbling behind the walls holding us back? Will reading for fun be here in twenty years?

Will libraries become quaint memories like the slide rule? Will books become ghosts like dusty 8-tracks?

Are we hurrying to buy a ticket on the Titanic?

What do you guys out there think? Have we become voices in the wilderness? Have we become like the tigers now in the wild : the last generation of our kind?


  1. Reading for pleasure wasn't something I did until spring of 09. I was one of the "why take the time to read when I can watch a movie in two hours" people. Never again. Television is mindless and boring for me now.

    My mother in law was taken aback by the number of books I got through in two months (9) and told me to keep track. I did and in ten months I read 63 books. This year I've read more.

    If you can believe it, my three year old owns more books than me and I purchase every book I read.

    Two weeks ago I got a kindle...

    My husband almost had a heart attack in Barns & Noble when I said that I didn't plan to stop buying the in print versions of my fav books. I had to explain to him that if everyone owned an e reader and refused to buy in print that I would never see my books in print they would only ever be a digital format of my dream.

    I think there's enough aspiring writers out there that e readers won't put in print out of "style' but the will seriously endanger them. As far as the industry, I think we will still have agents and publishers to get through before we fulfill our dreams but the overall cost of production will go down. Illustrators for cover art will be a thing of the past. Marketing will be no more. Who will need it for books if you can just search for release dates and next in series books on author blogs/websites and amazon?

    What's the e reader going to do to royalties for authors? Have you seen the prices for e books. I bought a book published in 2009 for .99 cents. I looked up one published last months (one I own the in print version of and bought for 17.99) the e version was 10.00.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I've been thinking about this since I got my kindle.


  2. As a child my nose was constantly in a book, then I went through a phase of not reading, I think because all my reading time was work related. Now I'm reading again. My nieces never read, very sad, I don't think my brother does either

  3. I think it's VERY sad that some kids don't read. Movies are so different from a book! and they'll never know. It does seem the landscape of life is changing, going more visual...e-books, anyone? Sigh.

  4. It's a niche for sure, and becoming more so every day. However, as there will always be a "live theater" audience despite the invention of the movie, there will always be a reading population--albeit smaller than in the past.

  5. Aristotle thought these kids today were doomed.

    They were doomed, in large part, but they weren't anymore doomed than their parents before them and their children who followed, and neither today are readers anymore doomed than they always have been and always will be.

    Readers have always been a finicky, niche market.

    Writers have always been rare and cherished and killed and jailed and ignored and beaten and made rich or poor for their fictional and non-fictional exploits.

    Used to be a 2nd Grade education was plenty, and reading the weather was more valuable than reading Dickens.

    Used to be reading was largely forbidden, especially in feudal and slave-owning societies. That's because reading leads to learning leads to thinking leads to discourse.

    Now school is mandated, because we learned in the 1930s how wonderful and effective proper state-sponsored indoctrination can be.

    With the increase in readers came the increase in need for distractions to ~keep~ them from reading anything but what the state wanted them to read -- i.e. keep to the curriculum, dear students, don't read beyond the curriculum.

    There are more distractions today than ever, but they are distractions only to those who would not have read anyway. Take that same guy who says, I'd rather play video games than read, and drop him into the 18th century, and he'll say, I'd rather go hunting than read, I'd rather plow than read, heck I can't read anyway, never needed to!

    Still, those few readers read, and those few writers write, despite the distractions, despite the indoctrination, and we'll be made poorer for it, or richer, or ignored, or jailed, or beaten, or revered.

    I don't think anything's changed at all, except maybe the fonts. We have a lot of new fonts these days.

    - Eric

  6. I think writing will just evolve with the times. Ebooks still need people to write them. So do the video games - they need interesting scenarios/stories behind them so that they can eventually be made into movies (and sequels) which will also need written. :) I remain optimistic.

  7. Hi,

    I'm surprised at how slow the giants of publishing are in catching the e-book potential for moving books. Sounds silly, but visual books are merely updated comic culture in that with an audio movie book one has a narrator in the background. They look great, sound great, and for people who wouldn't normally read a book they find themselves sharing the experience with someone who does. A bit like settling down with DVD and audio book all in one and great for reading in bed!


  8. People will always read, and there will always be a demand for writers in some capacity. Of that I've no doubt. The real questions are, *what* will people read and what type of writers will be required? Despite
    what you may hear, reading an e-book *is* reading. Just because the words appear digitally on a screen doesn't negate that fact. As society has evolved, storytellers have evolved. All I can say is, if storyteller is your goal, then learn from the past and be prepared to roll with the punches.

  9. This is something I've been pondering as well.

    One thing I learned a few weeks ago, while researching my blog post on the social media making us shallow, is that people are reading less because their minds can't handle it. The Internet and the social media are actually changing our brains. I just read the other day, some teachers are assigning CliffsNotes rather than novels in lit classes, because kids no longer have the attention spans to cope with a full novel.

    Carr, an adult who wrote the book I mentioned, The Shallows, said he noticed he started having trouble reading books and focusing. That's how he got the idea to investigate the psychological studies and write the book. Time will tell, I guess, just how much this affects us, especially kids who grow up with social media. Look at all the text messaging going on. You think they'd shut up once in a while:)

    The Internet is changing everything, including our behavior. With blessings there always seem to come curses.

    Great discussion, Roland!

  10. Hi Roland .. we certainly are becoming a visual world - as you put it here .. and what will we become .. it is interesting - to see who will do our research, write our regulations, etc etc ..

    The world is certainly changing .. Hilary

  11. Oh dear. I would hope not (to your last question). I would hope there would always be reading for a hobby, pleasure and for work!

    Maybe the devices and medium used to read and publish may change and evolve but the power of words will always be potent.

    Otherwise writers and journalists would not be persecuted, killed and jailed the world over for questioning authority and for finding the truth through their written words.

    Totalitarian regimes would not be so paranoid as to try and silence the very brave men and women who try to use the written word to blog, tweet and use the internet to get their articles across.

    I would hope that written words in whatever format will always have the power over a sword or video game anyday.

    Take care

  12. I am afraid you're right Roland. I have worked in the book world (libraries and bookstores) for many years now. People do not read like they used to. Kids have too many other things to do with their time- so do adults. At the public library where I work now we spend a large part of our time checking out DVDs to our customers. eBooks are not going to keep reading alive as much as young authors would love to fool themselves into believing they will... although we might be forced into turning back to books if we our economy turns so sour that we can no longer afford the internet and our televisions. But I'll bet that most of your followers will have a near heart attack at that thought!

  13. I have been dismayed for years to keep encountering your people at work who never read for pleasure at all. It makes me wonder what our world will come to, and I don't like what I imagine. My wife and I are both die-hard book lovers, so we are proud that both of our sons have picked up our love for books.

  14. Ted : It saddens me as well. Only three of my co-workers read. The rest go about their lives quite oblivious to the publishing world.

    Jodi : Yes, the Kindle and eBooks are changing the industry. So far only 9% of the reading population have an eReader, and the figures for that segment is truly depressing.

    Thanks for such a long comment. It really makes me feel as if I've hit a chord within you and the others.

    Eliza : Most children don't read these days. Sigh.

    Carol : It is sad. The world is becoming less literate and more self-focused.

    Oops, the center just called. I have to go.