Michael Haskins

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Who Reads Today?

It occurred to me, while I was preparing to send ARCs of “Chasin’ the Wind” to newspapers and other media outlets for reviews, that I am not sure people read much anymore.

As an example, Monroe County, where I live, is considering closing one or two libraries in the Middle Keys. I’ve read in the newspaper that other libraries are closing too. I also read, or hear from friends, about bookstores that are closing. I read a feature, recently, that indicated many newspapers have downsized their book review sections or have completely done away with them. Why? Because advertising revenues in those sections are down.

So, who reads today? Teenagers seem to do everything on computers and that includes reading. One teen I know, 16-year-old Alex Fierro, got through middle school with good grades in reading, but he read stories on the computer and tested about them on the computer. His summer reading required finishing two books and it was something he held off doing until a week before school. Do you suppose he received any pleasure from the books?

I don’t know about you, but to me, books and newspapers were meant to be held. I have always taken care of my books. When Hurricane Georges, 1998, blew through the Keys, it took my floating home, and about 1,000 books (mostly first editions) with it. I had spent most of my life collecting them.

I remember loaning my sister a book and watching in horror as she opened it and bent the spine! I yelled, I screamed, probably cried, while she told me that the book stayed open better after she did that.

Hands were made for many things, holding a drink, chopsticks, a sailing sheet, but mostly for holding newspapers and books. Maybe sitting in your favorite chair, a cup of café con leche, and the morning paper. Do you remember when there were afternoon editions of newspapers?

Obviously, I read blogs online and find myself squinting to read many of them. Some things can be read online, like directions from MAPQUEST or a blog, but never a book review! Blogs are like essays that once filled magazine pages. They are short and usually present one opinion, maybe defending it or just presenting it.

But books, a couple of hundred pages long, need to be held. Hell, EQMM and AHMM need to be held and they’re small magazines filled with marvelous short stories! I don’t think I know anyone who enjoys reading and buys books, who can read them on the Internet. Lord knows, there are some very good webzines that are filled with short stories, but reading a story on one, is not the same as holding it in your hands.

I spent weekends haunting used bookstores when I lived in Southern California. In Key West, I am a frequent visitor to Key West Island Books; owner Marshall Smith and I have formed an unusual friendship. Book people tend to be friendly and Marshall and I often discuss books. Notice I said “discussed,” because we don’t always agree on what is good or bad. We are entitled to our opinions, because we read the books we argue about.

Are books and bookstores a thing of the past? Obviously, there is a market for books, but is it declining and on the way to extinction? Will my home library, that I continue to rebuild since 1998, fall into the hands of grandchildren who will bend the spine of the books or taken them to Goodwill for resale?

What do you think?


John McFetridge said...

There's a classic rock radio station in my city (well, in most cities, I guess) and it uses the slogan, "The music that will never die." Whenever I hear it I always add, "Until we do."

It's entirely possible that everyone who will ever buy a book printed on paper has already graduated from high school. But those of us who love to read will continue to do so till we die. What's the expression, you can have my books when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers?

I feel bad that the kids don't appreciate books, but have you heard their music lately?

Good luck with your ARC's, I hope you get great reviews and sell a ton of books.

Michael Haskins said...

John, I couldn't agree more, about the music and who will read in future. From your lips to God's ears, regarding my book's sales! Thank you,
Michael Haskins

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