Tim Downs Blog The Official Blog of Author Tim Downs

22Aug/09Off

Does Anybody Read Books Anymore?

Some social commentators mourn the loss of literacy in our culture. “People don’t read books anymore—they’re too busy sending tweets and posting comments.” Others point out that social media like Twitter and Facebook are an indicator that people are reading more than ever—they’re just reading different things.

There are even hopeful indicators that people are still reading books, like the fact that today more Americans hold library cards than ever before. That fact tells me what writers know all too well: People still read books—they just don’t buy them.

I’ve lost count of how many readers who’ve written to tell me, “I can’t wait to read your latest novel, but there are twelve ‘holds’ on it at the library.” Or, “I just loved your last book—I loaned it to all my friends.”

Don’t misunderstand—I’m thrilled that people loan my books and check them out from the library. Most writers, I believe, are more interested in circulation than sales. Given the choice between readership and reward, we’ll take readership every time. Unfortunately, the only indicator we have as to how well a book is circulating is how many copies have sold. The NY Times records best sellers, not best loaners.

I’ve often wondered if some of the most-circulated books have less-than-spectacular sales. It leads me to wonder: What is it that makes someone buy a book? How do readers choose between the book they borrow, the book they check out, and the book they want to own?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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