Your New BEAU: The Great Reading Race
I never thought I’d ask this, but is reading more really better?
Before I get ahead of myself, I have been scanning some stats from this study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project on e-reading, highlighting this key point: people with Kindles and Nooks et al. read an average of 24 books a year, whereas print readers consume an average of 15 books in a year. And, well, as an exclusively print reader, I feel a little slighted. What are they trying to say about me? That I am not as voracious a reader? That I am slow? How dare they insinuate based on their “statistics” and “averages.” And just what 24 books are these e-reading people devouring in a year? Probably only a few books of comparable substance and 21 romance novels. Yeah.
What they’re really saying, it seems: print slows the average reader down.
Which brings me to my quantity v. quality question. What’s wrong with my 15 book average? Things move so fast in this digital age; everyone wants what they want to appear before them in a fraction of a second, and the faster you can move the more you can get done, more than the other guy, and you always want to stay ahead of the other guy. Maybe print readers don’t run through as many books, but maybe we get more out of the books we read.
And maybe not. Let’s not stereotype. There are plenty of thoughtful e-readers out there and thoughtless print-readers. My point is, I guess, what’s with the numbers comparison? Just how many books I complete in a year should not be a contest; it should not earn you some merit badge. Reading shouldn’t be a race. As much as Joel Stein thinks adults are wasting precious time reading YA books when they could be catching up on “3,000 years of fiction written for adults,” I would here like to grant the world permission to read what it likes, at whatever pace suits it, and get out of it what it will.
And, of course, the requisite advertisement, promoting the love of print: Watch a Book Being Born. Think back to a time when creating the written word for circulation required significant labor (hand-typesetting, hand-sewing, and even, before the printing press, hand-copying). Think about the time it took to just create a printed book. And consider giving that book as much time in your hands as it spent in the hands of its maker.
Slow down. It’s not a race.