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Reading isn’t dead, but it’s changing

January 3, 2012
by seth godin

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What does your gut tell you about this statement: “Kids in high school read more books for fun than their parents.”

In fact, it’s true. Young adult reading is up 20% since the last time the survey was done by the Feds, and a recent commercial survey finds the same thing.

Of course, these kids aren’t reading the right books, the books we read, the hard books.

And go take a look at the bestseller lists for the Kindle and other e-readers. You’ll see 99 cent short stories, self-published books, disgraceful genre fiction. Nothing much that was published by Knopf and others in that ilk in 1983 and is deemed literature. On the other hand, Walter Dean Myers (check out this article on him) has known this for decades. We worked together years ago.

Readership of blogs is up infinity percent in the last decade (from zero), and online journals and magazines continue to gain in power and influence.

And there’s more unsettling stuff being read by readers of all ages. Books that question authority and force readers to consider deeply held beliefs. The words may have gotten shorter (along with the sentences), but there’s plenty of intellectual ruckus being made.

You could view this shift as the end of the world and a threat to how you publish, or you could view it as an opportunity and shift gears as quickly as you possibly can. Publish what people choose to read (at a price they want to pay), and odds are, they will choose to read it. There’s plenty of room for leadership and art here, but little room for stubborn intransigence.

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