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Too Many Books


Too Many Books

by Kenneth Lyen

I read three books this past month. The first was "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, the second, a collection of poems compiled by Garrison Keillor entitled "Good Poems", and the third, a nonfiction book, "The Meaning of Everything" by Simon Winchester.

If I keep up this rate, I should devour over 30 books a year. But I know that this is an impossible achievement. Far too many distractions ambush me and I would be lucky if I managed to complete more than 15 books a year. I usually buy more books than I will ever get round to reading. My intentions are irreproachable, but they seldom become translated into action.

There is no shortage of new books available. The Observer newspaper reported on 22 August 2004 that the number of books published in Britain had risen from 100,000 to 120,000 per annum. The number of new books published in the USA is about 175,000 per year, or one book every 4 seconds.

However, the National Endowments for the Arts reported in July 2004 that there is a serious decline in reading in the USA over the past two decades, and the steepest rate of decline, 28%, occurs in the youngest age groups.

These two sets of observations do not seem to tally. If there seems to be a decline in reading, why are publishers publishing more books?

Who’s doing the reading? Are fewer readers reading more books? Or are publishers being foolhardy and publishing books that will not be read? Or are people, like myself, buying books but leave them languishing on our bookshelves?

I suspect the reason why so many books are published annually, is because many publishers harbour unrealistic hopes that they will strike bestseller oil.

The Observer opines that the majority of books published are trash. However, avid readers probably read a higher class of books. Actually, it does not really matter whether lowbrow or erudite books are being read. As long as the books get read, that surely must satisfy authors and publishers.

Sadly, I’m otiose. I might simply wait for a book to be made into a film. Yeah, I’ll be doing my bit to save the forests, by not reading (and not buying books).