In Bowker’s 2008 PubTrack Consumer Survey, the activity in which largest amount of time that READERS spent doing any one thing was browsing online. Reading books came in a distant fourth, right behind reading newspapers and magazines and far behind TV viewing. The good news is that in 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts found that more adults were reading, reversing a two decade downward trend. The growth was attributed to an increase in young adult reading and in fiction, both novels and short stories.
It used to be that I couldn’t even imagine a world without books but now, with the internet, there seems to always be something to entertain me. I can go over to view one video on Youtube and get stuck there for 2 hours watching music videos and home edited vlogs. I feel like I have lost whole days at Etsy.com and it’s step sister site, Regretsy.
There is nothing quite like losing oneself in a long form narrative, though, and that’s why I love reading books, but I do wonder if I am reading less today than I was ten years ago. Of course, ten years ago, I didn’t have a child and I could laze away all evening doing nothing but reading and eating Doritos. I know that blogging and social media like Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook take time away from reading. One nice thing about tv watching is that I can often multitask. I can update my Goodreads page and still catch the worst and the best of the auditions on American Idol, particularly when Ned is at the remote where I essentially am treated to a condensed version of every show.
Books don’t lend themselves to multitasking. You read and nothing else. I can sew, surf the web, and even page through a magazine while watching TV. Books take a time commitment. It’s one that I am happy to make, for the most part, but I find myself gravitating toward shorter books. I’ve noticed that there is a trend in digital publishing to provide more short form fiction than novel length fiction. Category length books represent 40% of published books (at least in 2006). Recently, Harlequin category books popped up on the USA Today list, in part because the books are tracked individually now, but also because for a certain period of time, they sold better than their long form narrative counterparts. Of course, part of the reason for the sales could be price but it could also be that readers are gravitating toward shorter fiction. I was never sure if the move by publishers to cut word count was a cost thing or a consumer response thing. (I thought it might be cost).
I certainly don’t think I am buying fewer books than I did before, but I am buying more category books. It’s easy to get a quick emotional fix from a category book. In a couple of hours I can read the courtship, the consummation, the drama, and the conclusion.
There are so many forms of entertainment out there to compete with the time set aside for books. Reading is almost a luxury given that I have to devote exclusive time to do so.
Does anyone else feel like their overall consumption of reading has declined? If so, what other forms of entertainment is replacing your reading time? If not, is it because you eschew other forms of entertainment consciously or because reading is still your first choice for entertainment? Where do you rank books in your overall entertainment options? First, second, third?