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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Publishers Shouldn’t Be Blind To Vision Problems Of Readers



There are many reasons a certain percentage of the population – in the United States – and across the world don’t buy or even read books.  Literacy is so important and some of the issues impacting readership can be treated.  Some people dropped out of school and simply need to go back and graduate. Others have learning disabilities, such as ADHD or dyslexia.  Some are learning English as a second language, having come here from another country.  But one overlooked source as to why people don’t read books is their vision has not been corrected.

Yes, people need glasses but they lack resources to obtain a pair of glasses with the correct prescription.  According to a USA Today factoid, based on a study conducted by Deloitte, 1 in 7 people worldwide require eyeglasses but lack access to vision care.

Yes, let that number settle in.  That’s almost 15% of the population - or over one billion lives – that have been written off.  They have trouble reading books, computers, ballots, newspapers and things that most of us take for granted.  I don’t know that all who are in that group can’t see close up to read, but let’s assume a good chunk of them can’t see well enough to read this blog, let alone a book.  It seems to me this is one area that we should focus resources on.

Many problems in the world need political will, huge sums of money or breakthrough technology to solve – such as war, cancer, and poverty.  But getting people an eye exam and glasses or laser surgery seems like something that doctors know how to identify and fix.  It’s merely a matter of money, and through it won’t be cheap, it seems manageable to fix.

What would the cost be?

Eye exams could be given by an army of doctors or technicians.  If someone can check the eyes of a patient and fit them for glasses in an hour and that person sees eight patients a day, five days a week, 48 weeks a year, one doctor could see nearly 2,000 people a year.  One billion divided by 2,000 equals 500,000.  We’d need to create a team of 50,000 doctors who could see 100 million people a year.  If each doctor is paid $75,000 a year it would cost $3.75 billion each year.  Throw in $200 glasses per person, and its 100 million annually, the cost is $20 billion each year.  In 10 years, it would cost $237.5 billion to fix the vision of those who need glasses but were too poor to do anything about it.  Under such a plan, we’d put 50,000 people to work and solve a crisis for what it costs to fight a Middle East War for a few months.

Okay, I’m being naïve and simplifying things.  Or am I?

For pocket change to the world’s richest people, we can help people become functioning members of society.  Once visual impairment is removed, they’ll be able to drive a car, read, and be participants in society rather than dependents.

We don’t have to figure out how to cure a disease or overcome religious extremists or find a solution to chronic conditions involving guns, abortion, adoption or anything like that.  We simply need to train people to become eye docs and to create an eye glass factory. Chances are we could do this for less than the price tag that I outlined.

But it’s a problem that’s tantalizing, so appealing in that it’s so solvable.  We don’t have to invent something.  We don’t need anyone’s permission.  There are no real barriers here.  People need proper vision to function and once they can see, they’ll give back to society and the economy in unseen ways – pun intended.

Optometrists, ophthalmologists, and opticians unite and help lead the way!  Book publishers, join them.  We should all see 20-20 on this issue, one that can and should be corrected before the world is blinded by inaction.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015



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