The Culture of the Book

From an interview with Larry Mc with Chronicle books editor Fritz Lanham:

Q: What will you talk about at Rice?
A: The end of the culture of the book. I’m pessimistic. Mainly it’s the flow of people into my bookshop in Archer City. They’re almost always people over 40.

I don’t see kids, and I don’t see kids reading. I think little kids love to have stories read to them, but when they get to 10 or 11 or 12, they run into this tsunami of technology: iPod, iPhone, Blackberries.

They don’t resist it, and it’s normal that they wouldn’t; it’s their culture. I’m not so sure they ever come back to reading. Some will, but most won’t.

My comments and thoughts:

Book culture’? When was that? When was this mystical time period that human beings read?

Since the invention of writing, it has been an exclusionary thing. Then comes gutenberg, makes it so the mass can get books, right?


So they get excited, sometimes. (Harry Potter, I am looking at you) Still books are seen as a ‘learnin’ thing. The average person was not so much a reader. Bible? On Sunday?


And yes, there were riots for Dickens novels, there was the unprecidented popularity of Jack London, all the way through the Beats getting challenged on the first amendment all the way to the Supreme Court.

But in the end, you would never fill a stadium for a poetry reading. As a culture, books have always been in the back ground behind things like movies, TV, sports.

College kids read. Dorky kids read. Smart people read. See what I mean?

So are we reading less? Ask JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer. Indeed I would say that now we are reading more than we ever were. That now, today, we as a species are producing, distributing and reading more works of prose/poetry/non-fiction due to the internet, due to print on demand, due many things.

So maybe we aren’t all sitting around reading high literature all day, but keep in mind, most of ‘high literature’ at the time was just pop culture (I’m looking at you Shakespeare).

End of the book culture? I don’t think so.

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