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Reader Creation & Development: What it Will Take

December 19, 2008

reader vs. non-reader

“At the current rate of loss, literary reading as a leisure activity will virtually disappear in half a century.”  (National Endowment for the Arts, Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, page xiii)

If true, more than half the publishers in America will have evaporated by 2052 and multi-genre retail booksellers, like Barnes and Noble, will be G-O-N-E.  No one will need a “literary agent.”  The only good news?  If I live a normal life, I will be dead by then.

Unfortunately, the NEA report calls on all the wrong people to stop the skid:

“…Public agencies, cultural organizations, the press, and educators need to take stock of the sliding literary condition of our country. It is time to inspire a nationwide renaissance of literary reading and bring the transformative power of literature into the lives of all citizens.”

These government agencies and non-profits are powerless without the juice supplied by for-profits, especially for-profit book purveyors who have the highest stakes in the reading game.

Don’t let the word “literary” throw you off.  By “literary” the NEA study merely means, “novels, short stories, poetry, and plays” without regard to their quality or long-term critical value.  We ain’t talkin’ Shakespeare.  What’s left is non-fiction–mostly textbooks, business reports and newspapers.

So at this half-way point in this series on Ten Preposterous Publisher Solutions for Reader Creation and Development, I think it’s time to stop and take a little stock of the stakes.  

THREE REALITIES THAT WILL DRIVE THE SUCCESS–OR LACK THEREOF–OF THE BOOK INDUSTRY

1. For-profit publishing people (including authors, publishers, agents, critics, and sellers) must take responsiblity for converting non-readers into readers.

All the conventional methods of growing future generations of readers are failing…badly.  Schools are graduating less students every year; graduates are less literate than ever; adult basic education is declining disproportionately to our rising underclass populations; colleges and businesses must offer remedial help to incoming participants at higher rates than ever. For the first time in the history of modern education, the current generation of kids coming out of American schools are less educated than their parents.  EVERY study of the last ten years indicate that literacy trends are declining rapidly.  

The government and non-profits are applying tiny tourniquets to corpses.  If the publishing industry doesn’t start investing massive quantities of energy, expertise, and resources to the literacy education of America, the number of readers (and potential customers) will continue to decline at accelerated rates.

(to be continued…)

 

© David P. Leach and Consequential Value, 2008

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