Friday, May 04, 2007

Who reads books anymore?

I just read this story on CNN

"It's not easy getting people to care about books.

Thursday, a small contingent gathered in front of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's building in downtown Atlanta, a couple blocks from CNN Center, to host a "read-in." The paper has decided to eliminate its book editor position and the activists want to show that books -- and readers -- matter. (The episode has received national coverage.)

So a handful of people quietly read books in front of AJC headquarters while others, standing in front of a poster saying "Save the Book Review" and a display of titles (Walker Percy's "Love in the Ruins," "Romeo and Juliet," Langston Hughes) praised AJC Book Editor Teresa Weaver and talked about why the paper was making a bad decision.

"The problem is, they're not making enough money, and this is easy to give up," said Vivian Lawand, a veteran Atlanta bookseller.

The paper says it will continue to have book coverage. "We will continue to use freelancers, established news services and our staff to provide stories about books of interest to our readers and the local literary community," spokeswoman Mary Dugenske told The New York Times.

The AJC isn't alone in its rethinking. The Times recently ran a piece about newspapers cutting back on book coverage. There's not enough advertising money, the thinking goes, and readers are gravitating online anyway and getting their book information from blogs and Amazon reviews. (I won't even go into all the questions surrounding the publishing business.)

But I'm not so sure cutting newspaper book coverage is the way to go.

I'll admit I'm biased -- in many ways. I don't know Weaver personally, but we have several friends in common; I subscribe to two newspapers (and several magazines); I'm in two book groups, one online and the other face-to-face; I like to see good writers succeed; and, of course, I oversee the entertainment and media page for a large news organization and I like to keep up with the field.

But at bottom, it's for a selfish reason: I read books. Lots of books. It's not just for my job. I love reading in general, and I know when I die I'll still have shelves -- cases -- of books I never got to. ("TBR stacks," my online group calls them -- "to be read" ... eventually.) I like books and I like reading about books, and Amazon and blogs aren't enough.

I fear I'm in the minority. How many people read books anymore, anyway? I'd like to think that book readers matter -- particularly to newspapers -- but it's not like the AJC's front steps were overflowing with demonstrators Thursday morning. The paper would probably get more protesting if it canceled "Mary Worth.""

read more (with 300+ comments, so there must be some readers on CNN :) )

This makes book reading blogs and forums even more important!!

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