November 8, 2013 · 10:36 am
Still plugging my way through NaNoWriMo (so far on track, by the way, thanks for asking), so it’s another shorter post this week! It follows up nicely to last week’s post on Neil Gaiman’s opinion on the value of reading, actually. Sure, why not fight this argument out some more? We all know reading is valuable, but it’s ironically hard to put into words why.
The value of fiction, Gaiman says, is – it’s a gateway drug to reading, and a way to build empathy skills. Now, here’s another perspective on reading from Mark O’Connell, who argues against using the ‘empathy’ argument too much. Don’t tie reading straight to making you a better person, O’Connell argues, as if reading a chunk of the work of some approved literary genius every day would eventually cause your interpersonal skills to go off the charts. Readers love hearing about scientific studies that ‘prove’ reading does actually increase empathy. But even if there was no noticeable, objective, ‘scientific’ proof that reading made you a better person, would it still be worth doing?
It would be, O’Connell argues.
“I don’t know whether all those boxes full of books have made me any kind of better person; I don’t know whether they’ve made me kinder and more perceptive, or whether they’ve made me more introspective and detached and self-absorbed. Most likely it’s some combination of all these characteristic, perhaps canceling each other out. But I do know that I wouldn’t want to be without those books or my having read them, and that their importance to me is mostly unrelated to any power they might have to make me a more considerate person.”
Here’s where I land as well. I think I am more empathetic because I read. I was never very good at reading other people’s emotions, but books have provided me a way to see inside of other people’s heads. Still, that truly is not the first reason I read. That’s not the first thing I think of when people ask me why I like books. It’s more like a side benefit.
So what is the right answer to the question, why read? Maybe there isn’t one. An answer that can easily encompass everything reading actually means to us readers, and that can actually communicate to non-readers and convince them of reading’s value – well, maybe translating that into a couple sentences, a paragraph, or even a whole article is just too much to ask.
June 21, 2013 · 12:55 pm
Maybe It Isn’t
E-books are taking over and traditional publishing is dying, or so the current narrative goes. E-book sales are going by leaps and bounds – apparently 2011’s sales were double that of 2010’s- and this clearly doesn’t bode well for the sales of cheap paperbacks. Readers might shell out for nice hardcovers if they want a physical copy of a book. But why shell out for a paperback?
Enter the article, “Is the Paperback Dead? Readers Still Love Them, But Publishers Want Them to go Away.” And why do publishers want them to go away? “[B]ecause paperbacks are the most common books to be bought secondhand… A paperback copy of, say, Eat Pray Love can be sold and resold ad infinitum, thanks to Amazon and your local used book store. But for multiple people to read that same book on a Kindle or Nook, each of them has to buy it for $10.”
So it’s all a conspiracy, then! We’re doomed!
There might be a smidge of truth in this. After all, wasn’t the gaming community up in arms at recently over the way the new X-box restricted the use of used games? And apparently some court ruled MP3s can’t be resold. So – it does make sense for a company to want to reduce the ways other people can make money by re-selling their product.
But people still love paperbacks. Paperbacks are less of a wrench to give away to someone you know will never give them back. Used bookstores are exciting places to find a new read – and are one method of “discoverability” that the internet will have trouble replicating. And, well, as long as enough people buy them, they probably will still sell them.
Therefore, I wouldn’t bank on the fact e-books will immediately and irreversibly replace the paperback in the near future. After all, the last telegram in the world will be sent in India on July 14. In this age of cellphones and even plain old landlines, some people still rely on the telegram! Technology does not a die a quick death. And I wouldn’t say the paperback’s death is absolutely guaranteed.
So get ye down to the bookstore and check out these old-fashioned things called ‘books’!
Harma-Mae Smit is an author of e-books, but she has a very soft spot in her heart for paperbacks and used bookstores as well.
April 5, 2013 · 2:14 pm
I would never make fun of anyone who loved to read.
– Juliet Ashton, in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
People who love to read get made fun of, sometimes. This is probably leftover from childhood, when the bookworms were thought of as kids who sat in the corner and had no friends, while the ‘cool kids’ boasted about how much of Animal Farm they didn’t read. So I would never, never make fun of anyone who loved to read. It’s too much of a life pleasure to make someone embarrassed about doing it.
This is probably why I cringe inside when someone tells me, “I never read,” or “I haven’t cracked open a book since junior high!” Because I am afraid they’re subtly trying to prove they’re superior to me. This is probably an entirely unfair way of reading this situation, and it’s highly likely no one is trying to insult me this way. It’s merely a knee-jerk reaction from my schooldays, in the same way I cringe when someone calls me “smart,” and I automatically insist I’m not (while looking over my shoulder in fear of being labelled “teacher’s pet” as well.) In the same way I try not to tell anyone my grades, even though getting a good grade in university has a lot less stigma attached.
But this works the other way too. When someone admits to me that they love books too, I feel a sudden kinship with them, as sharing a love of reading means we have a lot of other things in common too. I’ve discovered this is not always true, of course, but one of the fastest ways to get me to like a person is still for them to not be afraid to talk about the books they read.
I know, people who don’t like reading are sometimes looked down on by readers – the best solution would be for everyone to think twice before laughing at someone else. But since all of you lovely people are clearly readers, I have to ask you – do you ever feel looked down upon because of your reading habits? How do you feel when you meet a fellow reader?
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