Saturday, April 7, 2012

Books and the Internet: Readers Are Not Going Away

About a year ago several articles appeared discussing the effect the internet was having on people.  It was claimed that the ready access of information, particularly in terse bursts, was damaging our capability to reason, if not damaging the structure of our brain itself.  We discussed some of these articles in The Future of Booksin the Internet Age. 

The arguments suggested that the glitzy attractions of the internet were replacing the quiet, deep contemplation assumed to be associated with reading a book.  As a consequence we were losing our ability to read or write well.  This line of thought would imply that people were spending less time reading books in recent years.

That conclusion was countered with this press release by the Association of American Publishers.

“New York, NY, February 16, 2011— US publishers’ book sales across all platforms increased +2.4 percent in December 2010 vs December 2009 and +3.6 percent for the full year vs 2009, it was reported today by the Association of American Publishers (AAP).”

“Virtually every book publishing category showed growth in one or both comparisons, with the phenomenal popularity of E-books continuing.”

If the sale of books is increasing, it should be safe to assume that the amount of reading is also increasing.  Alexis Madrigal provides a short article in the Atlantic that presents evidence that the increase in reading could be part of long term trend that began decades ago and continues into the age of the internet.  This chart of data accumulated by Gallup was provided.

It would seem that the nadir of our interaction with the printed word came in the dull, drab 50s, not in the frenetic twenty-first century.

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