Confessions of a Book Hoarder

According to a 2011 survey, the average Briton has 80 books on their shelves they have never read. Of those 80 titles, 70 percent have never been opened, with 40 percent of survey respondents admitting their copies of classics like Pride and Prejudice and The Hobbit are just for looks and will probably gather dust until the day they disintegrate. That is, unless that book jacket for Jane Eyre is cleverly concealing a copy of Confessions of a Shopaholic.

But Brits aren’t the only readers with confessions to make. I, too, have many unread titles on my shelves, some of which have made multiple moves with me. So, this fall, I’ve resolved to read only the books I already own, review them on Goodreads, and offer them up for exchange on book swapping websites. That means I’m not making any trips to the bookstore for new titles. I’m even taking the library card out of my wallet.

My reward for this virtuous act of word recycling will be a clear conscience and, hopefully, an even clearer set of shelves to fill with fresh fodder in the new year.

If you’d like to join me in this endeavour, send me a friend request through Goodreads. I’ll accept because, frankly, I need all the encouragement I can get.

If a Post is Published in the Forest

As some of you may know, I recently started this blog to share my thoughts on writing, the media industry, teaching and life in general. But I came across some statistics that make me wonder, if a post is published in the forest, and no one is around to read it …

According to the most recent comprehensive study of our reading habits by the National Endowment for the Arts, 43 percent of adults did not read a book for pleasure in 2002. If you look at  U.S. Census data, there were about 215  million adults in the U.S. that year. Doing the math, that means an astounding 92.7 million Americans over 18 did not read a single book for enjoyment in that year — not one. The 2002 statistics marked a 7 percent decline from 1992, the last time the NEA surveyed reading habits. If those trends have persisted over the last decade, that would mean nearly half the adult population will not read a book for enjoyment this year.

Now take into account that the number of print books published in the U.S. rose by 5 percent from 2009 to 2010, an increase of more than 14,000 new titles. Non-traditional publishing more than doubled its number of published titles from 1,033,065 in 2009 to 2,776,260 in 2010, the most-recent year for which numbers are available. “These books, marketed almost exclusively on the web, are largely on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and ‘micro-niche’ publications,” according to Bowker, which tracks the publishing industry for publishers, booksellers and libraries.

So, if frighteningly close to half of U.S. adults don’t read for fun these days,  who is reading all these books? Why, other authors, of course.

The blog clearinghouse Technorati.com currently has 1,295,372 blogs in its directory. Of those, 16,846 fall into the site’s BOOKS category. That’s just one indication that the people who do read books are clearly reading, and writing about their hobby, at a pretty furious rate. Add to those the number of blogs about writing and those that, like this one, mention writing, reading or books occasionally. I would venture to say these blogs indicate that a growing number of avid readers are writers as well.

This essay from The New York Times Book Review* touches on some of these topics, but some other reading I have been doing seems to indicate the brief romance between blogging and books might be morphing from a passionate affair into an established marriage or, worse, an incestuous morass that has a growing number of writers competing for the same, shrinking reading public. That thought leads me to the following questions  I would like to put out there for all you readers and writers. Please pass them on to others who might offer some insight:

How many blogs do you read daily?

Do you have a blog?

How many of you bloggers have written, are writing, or are thinking about writing a book?

How does your blogging relate to those book projects?

.Hopefully, this dispatch will make a sound.

* This New York Times essay cites the same NEA study, but uses some interesting new math to highlight its findings.