Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tell Me a Story

The oldest of those activities, which are not needed by humans to actually survive, is story telling. The history of all art and communication is the history of humans finding new, better and more engaging ways to tell stories. From the first painting on a cave wall to the last blog posted,the human animal has simply lived to pass on and receive information to inform and entertain.My earliest memories of my parents are of being read to.My earliest activities with my daughter were reading to her.Nothing in the histry of the species has intrigued us more than storytelling.

Now I see that one of the more effective means of storytelling, book reading, is declining.This is understandable of course. No book has a $100 million budget to show wold explosions and space ships fighting. Reading can't be done in high defininition. Computers are faster,I-Pods snappier.The space of the book in all of this gets narrower and narrower. Still, it is sad to see my favorite stroy telling genere beginning to die out.And that is what is happening, I have no doubt about it. In less than 200 years, books will, for the most part, be antiques and decorating items.Everyone will be reading off of a screen. It is much more efficent. Just as the printing press put an awful lot of quill writing monks out of business,the computer is too efficent to lose this battle.

How much do people read today ? About 25% of all Americans read zero books last year. That's not surprising.I bet 15% of the population is pretty well fuctionally illiterate, or at leats capable of reading nothing beyond a daily sports page. I can live with 25% not reading. It is sad, but inevitable.

The average person in America read four books last year. Now even that does not sound too bad. I believe it to be a lie. The majority of books read in this country, vast majority, are religious books. I believe that a lot of people who read a verse out of the bible at church every week are counting that. I have nothing against religious books. I read them myself quite often.There is a reason that the Bible outsells everyone except for Ms. Rowling. It has stories in it that are thousands of years old, stories that go back to the days of the first story tellers. The interesting thing is that people who never attend religious services read about twice as much as those who do. I guess they have a lot of extra time on Sunday morning.Women read a lot more than men, older people read a lot more than younger people, Democrats read more than Republicans. Very little of what your college professor hoped you'd read is being read.Outside of religious works, popular fiction, mystery and biographies, not much is read.Less than 5% read any poetry or classic literature.

So the old book is winding down.In some ways this is good, my house, which contains over 2,000 volumes is cluttered with them.We would have more room for a really big T.V. if we did not read so much. My wife reads at least 100 books a year. I read between 25-50 I guess, but then again, mine are thicker. I should get some credit for that.Plus, she works in a library. Libraries will still be around in 200 years. They will be the buildings with all those computer monitors in them.


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