Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

“I just get sleepy when I read”

CNN has details on a somewhat depressing survey of American reading habits. I’d be more depressed, but reading has never been anything but a minority pastime.

The blogosphere is buzzing over quotes by Pat Schroeder, the president of the American Association of Publishers and a former Democratic house member from Colorado. According to Schroeder:

“The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: ‘No, don’t raise my taxes, no new taxes.’ It’s pretty hard to write a book saying, ‘No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes’ on every page.’”

I find the argument unnecessarily partisan. The statistics hardly support the weight:

“Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five.”

That’s not much of a difference, I think, and the real villains are the ones in the squishy middle. And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, it’s distressing to find the titular head of American publishing dismissing eight out of 22 readers.

It seems to me the numbers support a rather different conclusion, that most Americans have political opinions untested by serious reading. To me, that’s a little scary. But does it matter? If democracy really required a reading electorate, Iceland would be the only functioning one.

One of our greatest strengths is the degree to which LibraryThing crosses political and social boundaries. There are, of course, political groups, two of the largest being Political Conservatives and Progressive & Liberal!. But, members mostly get along, either because the community here is welcoming and we prohibit ad hominems or because book lovers share something as powerful as a political orientation.

Then again, maybe it’s because our book-based social system tends to keep opposites away from each other…

Labels: politics, polls, reading

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