Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Supersize them

I am not the only one thinking about whether people read. Michael Kesterton- I always read your Social Studies section Michael!- points me to an article by Don Glaister of the Guardian writing in LA.

Apparently Books are in trouble in the US: The Book Industry Study Group reports that annual sales in the US have fallen from 600m in 1999 to 535m last year. I am hopeful that Canada’s book sales are healthier. But according to Don south of the border “There is a crisis in literature. Readers have stopped reading, drawn instead to other perhaps more modish forms of entertainment. Sales are down, authors are despondent, salons are closing and literary lunches have become drab affairs....Many people over the ripe old age of 40 are starting to have trouble reading, and reading mass market books has become very difficult," Jane Friedman, president and chief executive officer of HarperCollins told the Associated Press....

The answer is obvious: publishers are to make books bigger, thereby making space for larger print on the page and solving in one swoop the malaise affecting literature. Maeve Binchey, Nora Roberts, Stuart Woods and Robin Cook ... will be the first to benefit from the new supersized literature as Penguin launches its Premium range in the US this summer..."We think it will be a more comfortable reading experience, but still at an affordable price," said Leslie Gelbman, Penguin's president of mass-market paperbacks....

The new format, which other publishers also plan to adopt in the US next year, will be half an inch taller than existing paperbacks...Moreover, the books will be printed on higher quality paper and they will sell for a figure between the price of an existing paperback and hardcover book....Rather than being concerned about such old-fashioned literary gimmicks as plot, character and the careful choice of appropriate language, they must now recognise that the key to successful writing is to change the font size setting on their computer and to invest in some heavyweight paper at the stationers.” (emphasis mine)

All you authors out there take note but I have to tell you that although over the “ripe old age of 40" I take my glasses off to read and have no trouble with small print. So much for my mother’s admonition that all that reading would ruin my eyes.

MK also reports on an article in the Christian Science Monitor which says that Mexicans read on average only 2 books per year compared to the Swedes ( who read 2 per month)

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Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)