Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What Is America’s Reading Capacity?

Has America reached its book reading saturation point?  If it hasn’t, what will be that point?

When you look at how Americans spend their time outside of work or school, you see people busy with chores, family obligations, social media, entertainment, and any number of activities.  Americans could easily double their reading capacity if certain things happened, but before we get to such a bold solution, let’s understand the state of things.

A Pew survey released this past October showed that 27% of adults said they had not read a single book in the last year.  That equals at least 55 million adults!  How can our nation thrive when so many remain unengaged, ignorant, and under-educated?

On average, American adults read 12 books per year but the median was only 4. This means half of America read 4 or fewer books in 2015.  That’s no better than one every three months. If you read two or three pages a day, you’d read four books a year.  That equals maybe 5-8 minutes of reading per day. We can do better!

Ok, so what would allow people to read more books?

Opportunity:  If time is the main reason, all people need to do is reallocate their time or figure out how to multi-task.  Can you read while on the toilet, waiting in line, or commuting to work?

Choice:  People make choices every day.  Will you read a book instead of surf Twitter, watch TV or play a video game?

Priority:  Do you see reading books as being important, helpful, and pleasurable?  If you do, you’d make books more of a priority, wouldn’t you?

Availability:  Books are readily available for purchase in bookstores, non-bookstores, and online.  Digitally, many books are available for free or at very little cost.  Libraries lend books at no cost.  There’s no excuse for saying one lacks access to books, though some may not be able to afford an electronic reading device.

Peer Pressure:  Rather than readers finding each other and forming book clubs, who is preaching books to the non-readers or under-read?  If a community or household values books, they all read – a lot. If no one models a good reader, then homes go without books.

A Reason to Read a Book:  Too many will say they can read a blog, see a movie, or get their news and entertainment fix from television.  But books are a special way to receive information, ponder ideas, and explore new worlds.  Its lengthier format – compared to newspapers, magazines, poetry, blogs, or FB posts -- offers a unique way to engage in a conversation with yourself.  Because it lacks visuals in most cases, books allow for your imagination to run wild.  Because your read to yourself, your voice helps you personalize the content.  A book can be picked up anywhere anytime and get re-read over and over.  There’s something complete about a book, something whole about it.  Once one lets him- or herself become a reader, he or she won’t stop with one book.

Language Barriers:  Obviously people, in order to read books, will need to possess the educational skills, language commandment, and focused ability to do so.  Unless we educate people to become capable of reading they will never experience such a pleasure.

Learning Disorders:  Obviously it’s difficult to read a lot of books with untreated disorders such as ADHD, Dyslexia, and the like. Further, having visual problems go untreated will also inhibits one's ability to read. Those who suffer from uncontrolled mental illness, were in a debilitating accident, or are feeling sick may also be temporarily limited in how much they can read. The more people we can get diagnosed and treated for things, that once corrected could enable more people reading more books, the quicker we can see more books being consumed by our nation.

There may be a limit as to how many books a person can read, but we’re not even close to such a saturation point.  We can do better – and need to.  If we believe books can enlighten, inspire, educate, influence, and entertain us, we must speed up the process to get more readers into the fold and to get more readers to read more often.

Imagine what our nation would look like if we reached a point where everyone read a minimum of 18 books a year – one and a half per month or roughly 12 to 15 pages per day.  This would be a 50% increase over today’s average but more than four times the median.

The information and ideas are already out there that can make the world better.  But if we don’t have enough people exposed to them it gets harder for the educated minority to persuade the under-read majority of anything.

What’s America’s reading capacity?  We are nowhere near what it might be and we need to work hard to get people to read books. Not only will they gain by reading more books but they’ll lose less by limiting exposure to reality shows and cat videos.   

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

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 © 2016

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