Thursday, April 9, 2015

Reading Books, 1915 vs. 2015

Reading has changed over the years.  The book itself now comes in a digital form. But whether you hold a Kindle or a hardcover book in your hands, the act of reading and the context of reading books is way different today than in generations past.

Let’s examine some of the differences:

1. Lighting
People used to read books by day, outdoors and indoors, and some read by candlelight or a fireplace.  Now people can read anywhere, anytime.

2. Competing Content
A century ago books didn’t compete with too many other sources of information.  Now you have an explosion of content from newspapers, magazines, Internet (podcasts, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and other forms of media.

3. Other Books
One hundred years ago saw the release of only a handful of books each year.  People read the same books back then.  Now there are three to four thousand books released every single day – plus millions of volumes in backlist to choose from.

4. Knowledge of Readers
In 1915 citizens were undereducated and certainly they didn’t know then what our society knows today.  More people today know more things and bring something to the books they read compared to back then.

5. Privacy
Back then homes were smaller and families were bigger.  Finding a place to read in privacy and quiet was harder back then.  That could influence what people read.

6. Censorship, Bans & Mores
Even a century ago there were tighter restrictions imposed by local governments, school boards, stores, and parents as to what books would get circulated.  Now you can order books from around the world and bypass the censors or traditional societal controls.

7. Glasses, Surgeries & Contact Lenses
People had trouble reading without proper eye wear.  Some of it was financial and some of it stemmed from peer pressure against wearing nerdy glasses, but people back then did not always get the eye wear they needed.  Today it’s not an issue.  Kids wear glasses, teens contact lenses and seniors get eye surgery. More people read for more years today.

8. Review Sources & Books Discussed
People get so much info about books today from reviewers, online comments, and book clubs.  Back then people relied on neighbors, friends, clergy, and teachers to tell them what to read.

9. White Male Writers
Books today are written by gays, blacks, Latinos, women, and every minority imaginable.  Back then you mainly heard the voice of the white man.  Diversity in books will continue.

10.  Cost & Availability of Books
Based on inflation, books today are dirt cheap, especially e-books.  Libraries make books available for free.  Amazon sells books 24-7 around the world.  Barnes & Noble is in every major city.  People can get the books they want, quickly and easily.  One hundred years ago saw limited book choices and availability.

Clearly, many factors influence today’s reading experience and new ones will develop in the coming years.  Science may uncover a way for humans to “download” a book to their brains, bypassing what we consider to be reading.  Who knows?  For now, enjoy a good book and appreciate how book reading today is something that’s easier and more available to more people than ever before.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

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 He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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