Friday, August 24, 2007

or a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls just about anywhere else

The Guardian muses about a bookless future in America.
"Even in New York City, the so-called literary epicenter of America, books are becoming scarcer. Many of the venerable independent bookstores have closed down, as have the used bookstores. Jump on a downtown subway train and you'll be lucky to see more than a couple of people reading books.
Now a study has put a figure on the decline of reading in the US. One in four Americans read no books last year. Nothing. Not even the Bible.
America has always had one of the lowest literacy rates in the western world. The former book review editor of the LA Times, Steve Wasserman put it bluntly. "Reading has always been a minority taste in America," he said, "and that's OK." But I think what we're seeing now is something new which has to do with how a culture operates when all values become subservient to that of making money - when reading is not supported either from on top and from below."
A curious prescription although it's probably futile to argue against it is the idea of putting books where Americans (all of us, maybe) congregate.
Put copies of books in mall shops, or as the article suggests, why not stock On the Road at the Gap?
To be fair, the writer notes how "crass and ridiculous" that is, but then "so is America."
In the main, if I were an American I'd probably feel just a bit insulted by someone from the Guardian suggesting that I'm too dumb to know what I might want to purchase unless I see it on TV first, but I'm probably just being oversensitive.

If a visual culture trumps all, maybe the lack of bookstores is problematic here.
After a certain point, when malls or neighbourhoods don't have places where books are presented enthusiastically, it won't matter if every mall has a Barnes & Noble. The place for books will be just like the place for everything else.
One more box store where crass and ridiculous carries the day.

Obviously we have a stake in this, but perhaps this has in some part, to do with independent bookstores disappearing and the "land of the book free" coming to the fore?

Posted by Dave

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