Sunday, 1 March 2009

Another bogus recap of Australians' reading habits appears in today's Sun-Herald under David Dale's byline. And bizarrely he's stuck in a couple of celebrity pics to sex the thing up just that little bit required so that you don't feel like a geek if you bother to click on the link to read it.

To start with, Dale's only looking at bestseller lists. Among the bestsellers in this country you'll usually find a cookbook. Recently, there was that mega-selling book about how to clean everything from lace to lawnmowers, but it's not listed now.

What we get, instead, are Rowling and Meyer. No surprises here. Meyer's book Twilight was adapted recently for film and everything else she'd written is riding on the generous wake of this major cultural event. It's a major movie tie-in situation and make no mistake.

Thankfully, one of Dale's readers took the time to post a comment reprimanding him for his sloppy research. "That list is rubbish," says Jimbo. "A cook book does not count as reading, and neither does the Telegraph, or Woman's Day." Jimbo unfortunately thinks that reading is "a dying art". Readers of a recent post here will know that even niche booksellers can do well, given the right marketing and title selection strategies.

Other commenters make good sense, too. Lilith reads and Teresa has had a good experience with the Sydney Online Book Club which can be found at the social site Similarly, Darryl Mason has serialised a novel called ED Day "and with almost no publicity it still managed to pull in about 5000 regular readers, some of whom were extremly anger when I was late posting the latest chapter".

Bookworm, who works in IT, doesn't like Meyer, like Jimbo. And prefers literary fiction to other forms of publication. Doesn't like reading onscreen, which bucks a trend Dale postulates, that we are reading more online. But will Google classify as 'reading'? I don't think so. Most people scan when they get online. Bookworm's aversion to screens is also based on science, as the vibration inherent in your computer screen is not conducive to the extended periods of intense concentration required to get through a book.

Personally, I think that Dale's readers exhibit more intelligence than his column, which feels as though it was knocked up in about 20 minutes on a Saturday night before going to dinner.

As for Project Gutenberg, blogsprog, I don't really think many people use it to read a book. Although both Bookworm and Becks think books are too expensive, there's not going to be much competition in terms of convenience when it comes down to actually reading a full length novel. You can buy a Jane Austen for $10 now, when printing a Gutenberg version of one of her novels will take hours using a regular inkjet printer. Then how do you bind it? (most staplers aren't big enough.) Use a folder? (Trip to the newsagents required here.) And what if you don't want to read Austen again? (Gutenberg's selection is ridiculously small compared to what's available in a good bookshop.)

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