More than a quarter of Americans haven’t read a book over the past year, and the number is climbing. We can’t blame millennials or e-books either, according to this article. Who is reading? Ultra-successful people read…a lot.
But the purpose of this blog isn’t to “book-shame” you. After all, this entire August series is about the business of fun. And reading, like theater, movies, festivals, booze, and the 15+ other things we’ve written about so far can be really enjoyable. After all, fun is about escaping from your day-to-day routines and exploring novel (pun intended) experiences.
First, a history lesson…
The origins of reading go hand in hand with the invention of writing back in the 4th millennium B.C. The oldest surviving “book” is the Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem. It’s full of violence, betrayal, and passion. Sounds like a current novel! Tablets and scrolls (no, not the modern day kind!) eventually morphed into printed books. Before the Industrial Revolution, few countries were considered “literate” and reading silently was unusual. Books have always been inspiring, entertaining, and sometimes controversial. Here’s the Library of Congress list of books that shaped America. The publishing trends reflect the public’s tastes and sentiments.
Best-Sellers…Flying Off the Shelves (and Virtual Shelves)
I could only recognize a few of the authors’ names on the best seller list from the 1950’s (Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Salinger among them). But I knew many more of the titles because they were ultimately sold to Hollywood. An average of 30 books a year get turned into movies. Be sure to read these books before they head to the big screen in 2017.
Authors have never been the best paid contributors to our society. Movie and television rights and speaking gigs supplement book royalties. James Patterson makes a whopping $94 million, but that’s an exception to the rule. Here are the top-earning writers today.
The best sellers of all time are an interesting mix. (Sorry, Harry Potter…you’re not on the list!) The bible probably ranks #1, but it’s not counted in many popular commercial summaries because many copies are given away. The New York Times best seller list is now broken down by genre and format and target audience and includes (as it always did) the number of weeks a book is on the list. Having staying power is a big thing in today’s fickle media world. Reading the list is actually sort of tiring (but interesting).
A Farewell to Pages
Books began to morph from paper to digital in the early 2000’s. Even libraries (see below) began going digital. e-book sales jumped about 164% (up to $441 million) in 2010. Sales of e-books from major publishers are now flat, but self-published books seem to be on the upswing. Does reading on paper boost comprehension? It’s the topic of recent research. What format is best for you as a reader? This interesting article gives some tips.
Textbooks, Libraries, and Other Potential Dinosaurs
As we enter back-to-school season, talking about academic reading makes sense. Borders was my college bookstore in Ann Arbor. Founded in 1971 by two brothers, it was the mecca for our textbooks every year…in the real world. We sold them back at the end of the semester. Although carrying the big stack to and from the store was good for our arm muscles, it never made financial sense. Sadly, Borders eventually imploded after its evolution/expansion. The last year it turned a profit was 2006, a victim of industry consolidation. Textbooks are moving toward digital media. Here are other trends that impact the school book.
We used to go to the library to find books and concentrate. Now we just need a digital device and earbuds to block out noise. Libraries are re-inventing themselves as community gathering places and even “maker spaces.”
The Birth of the Blog and Self-Published Media
Blogging started in 1994 by a Swarthmore College student. Here’s a great timeline of the evolution of blogging. The term “blog” took hold in 1997, when self-publishing became glamorous. (We can thank Carrie Bradshaw for that.) Today, 200 million blogs exist, covering everything from fashion to motherhood to business (like this one). Here is a live count of the blogs written today!
Self-publishing used to be called “vanity publishing” and was considered an act of desperation. Not so any more! Here’s a preview of what’s going on in the self-publishing world. Even if you’re not a good writer, you can make your mom proud and look accomplished on your website!
Making Reading Social
While book clubs still exist, we don’t have to get together weekly with lemonade and cookies. Goodreads creates a virtual book club of all your online friends (and even strangers). If you prefer discussing books with people in real life, here are some tips for making your book club a little more exciting.
The Future of Reading
You can do your part to boost the number of readers today by taking a paperback to the beach with you this weekend. Can’t decide what to read? This site will give you some suggestions. The Wall Street Journal (which I happen to read on my computer screen) believes that reading is here to stay, and focuses on the 75% of us who DO read rather than the others. MarketWatch predicts that the audio book is going to become a big thing (which makes sense, given all those ear buds).
Let’s encourage this next generation to keep on reading! I’m going to read Pat the Bunny and Curious George aloud to my six month old granddaughter next week. (No…not on my iPad!)
P.S. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads to see what I’m up to. (I like a weird amalgam of chick lit, non-fiction, and business books) and keep on reading this blog please.
ABOUT NANCY A. SHENKER
A former big-brand executive (Citibank, MasterCard, Reed Exhibitions) and late-life entrepreneur (CEO of theONswitch marketing), confidently straddles the digital divide.
Innovation only happens when people break rules and question authority.
That’s what I (Nancy A. Shenker aka the “Bad Girl”) have always done. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. I wasn’t uber-popular as a kid, so I’m used to it. I’d rather be respected and remembered than revered.
Girls are taught from an early age to be good. But we bad ones — the rule-breakers, the ones who question things, the ones who don’t sit idly by and wait for stuff to happen — have more fun, are more creative, and sometimes invent really cool stuff. We say out loud what’s in other people’s heads. We don’t lean in…we sit up straight.
I also follow trends and jump on new bandwagons. Not because they are perceived as cool, but because taking risks and trying new things can change the game. I learned how to use digital media starting in 2003 and I know as much about useful technology as most 20-somethings (even though I’m now close to 60). I use my mad social media skills to build communities and provide useful tips about marketing and business and life in general.
I’m not mean and I don’t break laws. But I have always marched to the tune of a different drummer. It hasn’t hurt me in life or in business. So come join me in being a little bad. It’ll feel really good!