Bookstore Failure Significant to Writers

Borders Bookstore in Pinnacle Hills shopping mall, NW Arkansas
Borders Bookstore in Pinnacle Hills shopping mall, NW Arkansas

The Borders bookstore in the Pinnacle Hills shopping mall is one of 200 being closed this year as the corporation goes through bankruptcy.

The company’s difficulties are blamed on its “failure to respond when the industry evolved and books and other media became available online and elsewhere.”

Many book buyers will shrug, take advantage of the liquidation sales, and go on buying their books from Amazon. Readers who love to browse and smell the stacks can console themselves with the fact that we still have our Barnes and Nobles stores. Writers, however, will see the failure of Borders as another nail in the coffin of a writing career.

More than a failure to keep up with the digital revolution is at work here. Americans still read and buy books, but, regardless of the form in which books are being read, reading is not a high priority for most Americans.

By reading, I mean the reading of standard works and new books, not magazines and blogs.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a books-only bookstore can’t find a niche in a country of 310,862,805 inhabitants, 85 percent of whom have completed high school.

A curious fact about Americans is that, according to a Boston Globe report, 82 percent of Americans would like to write a book, but, according to a National Endowment for the Arts report, only 57 percent of adults read any kind of book in the course of a year. In the 18-24 year old bracket, only 43 percent surveyed in 2002 had read any literature at all, down from 53 percent in 1992.

The decline in reading cannot be blamed entirely on video games and the internet.

The pleasure and satisfaction to be gained from reading surpasses anything that can be gained from watching television or playing a video game, but individuals who do not discover the joys of reading while they are young, cannot be expected to know what they are missing as adults.

The failure of Borders reflects the failure of parents and educators to provide the guidance and space that fosters a life-long love of reading.

As a matter of self-interest, writers need to do all they can to promote better reading instruction in their local schools, surround their children and grandchildren with positive reading experiences, and support their locally-run independent bookstores.

It DOES Matter What They Read

Thirty-seven percent of fourth-graders cannot read at the basic level

Some more dreary statistics

Maeve Maddox writes about popular culture, English usage, and education. Her most recent books are WORD RAGE, a guide to peaceful coexistence as American English-speakers, and THE FABERGE FLUTE, a cozy mystery set in 1980s London.

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