It may seem a bit peculiar to write an article about the decline in reading for a site that has done so much to promote the works of writers past and present. Most assuredly, regular visitors to this site are readers. Unfortunately, they are the exception and not the rule in the present day.
During the pulp era, writers were sometimes referred to disparagingly as the Penny-a-Word Brigade. Flash forward to the end of the second decade of the 21st Century and you’ll find far too many pulp writers who would salivate at the thought of earning a penny a word for their efforts. Far too many receive no financial compensation at all, some do not even receive comp copies of their own titles.
The purpose of this article isn’t to disparage small presses that are labors of love for publishers who regularly soldier on year after year failing to turn a profit. When you are a small operation, economies of scale aren’t even a concern. You could publish two dozen titles a year and still lose money. Paying writers or artists is not always possible for those who are in it for something other than financial return.
Read More Read More
As some of you may know, I’ve been talking and thinking and blogging (not necessarily in that order) about reading more, and reading better over the course of the last year. Today being New Year’s Day, the day of resolutions and goal-setting, I thought I’d link to some of the posts I’ve written on the subject for those interested in focusing on ratcheting up their reading in the coming year.
Firstly, something of a summary of my reading posts can be found in a three part article that has recently gone up at Grasping For the Wind called ‘Ramp Up Your Reading.’ In the first part, ‘More and Faster‘ I go over ways to try to get more reading hours shoehorned into the day. In ‘Do It Better‘ I focus more on the quality of one’s reading, and how slowing things down can often be a more efficient use of time than trying to skim through a lot of books. Finally, in ‘Expand Your Horizons,’ I talk a bit about challenging yourself to read outside your comfort zone or in a more focused way. That post grew out of starting my own experiment in the form of a Five Book Challenge, in which a friend of mine and I each assigned one another five books to read in the coming year.
Regular readers of the Black Gate blog will have read some of my posts on reading in the past that pertain to increasing one’s reading output. Both my post on keeping reading lists and “speed reading” focus on trying to get more read over time. I’ve also talked about reading ruts and obsession in Specialist and Generalist Readers. Beyond the practical, my paen On Bookmarks may be of interest, as might my celebration of browsing in a brick-and-mortar bookstore: Books Best Appreciated in Their Natural Habitat. Any way you slice it, a nice, fresh, new year is the perfect time to decide you are going to read that fat classic or epic series you always wanted to, or set some goal for yourself like reading a book a week or shooting for 100 books in a year. Whatever your personal goals, it’s always satisfying to to do something different and new — after all, it is a New Year, and I think it’s worth trying to keep it ‘new’ as long as we can.
BILL WARD is a genre writer, editor, and blogger wanted across the Outer Colonies for crimes against the written word. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, as well as gaming supplements and websites. He is a Contributing Editor and reviewer for Black Gate Magazine, and 423rd in line for the throne of Lost Lemuria. Read more at BILL’s blog, DEEP DOWN GENRE HOUND.
When people ask me what I like to read I usually answer with a simple ‘everything,’ but of course that’s not strictly true. I don’t read trigonometry textbooks or Romance novels, celebrity memoirs or cookbooks, monographs on the evolution of sheep shearing or anything by Dan Brown (in fact, just give me that thing on sheep first). But when I say ‘everything’ I’m being figuratively if not literally honest, because my tastes — especially when compared to the average reader — are very broad. I don’t read only one kind of thing. I’m a generalist.
There are plenty of people — possibly even the majority of people — that have a wholly different approach to reading. They are the specialists, and they only like one kind of thing and that is what they read to the exclusion of all else. It is tempting for me to regard this alien species as outside the category of ‘reader’ as I understand it — you know, the sort of person that, as a kid, spent all his lunch money on books, who’s tempted to get rid of his furniture to make room for his library, and who would rather read than watch TV, play jai-alai, or attend model home open house events in the hopes of a buffet spread. To me, a real reader is a voracious omnivore; metaphorically a gaunt, hollow-eyed ghoul with ink-stained fingers and sharpened teeth who knows an insatiable hunger so keenly painful it has in fact become a pleasure of sublime proportions. Our ghoul/reader will eat and eat and eat to the point of dieing, and ask for more with his last breath. Real readers are all a little bit insane — and they hope that no one ever finds the cure for their condition.
Read More Read More
Lately I’ve been immersed in all things bibliophilic, reflecting on reading more, organizing my shelves, the value of keeping a list, and the costs associated with an obsession with books. And it occurred to me in the midst of all this that there was something else I could talk about that most of us take for granted, a semi-invisible and rather elementary facet of the reading life that is none-the-less worthy of our occasional attention. Bookmarks.
I don’t collect bookmarks, but I do accumulate them. Old holdovers from childhood, the gifts of well-meaning family members, and the make-do solutions to a temporary need that end up sticking around for many more reads. In thinking about my bookmarks I notice they have a peculiar life cycle very different then those of books — books, while they come and go, often don’t do so mysteriously (unless you have house guests that think of you as a lending library). Bookmarks, on the other hand, can be here one minute and gone the next.
One of the places they could be, of course, is in the book you left them in. Big readers are no strangers to having more than one book going at a time (before I started reviewing so much, I tended to read one fiction together with several non-fiction books at once), and no strangers, too, to suddenly discovering that a book you put aside with every intention to get back to it has sat untouched on your shelf for years. Open it, and you’ll see the bookmark, a diligent reminder of where you left off.
Read More Read More
I don’t consider myself a fast reader, though I must be someone’s definition of fast. I started reading early, and was always something of a bookworm as a child, but I was never one of those kids who could sit down a read a whole novel in a few hours. In other words, I don’t have any special powers or prodigy-level talents, and what reading speed I have managed to develop has only really emerged later in life, and only with effort. Last week I linked to an interview with columnist and reviewer Sarah Weinman, who is what I labeled a hyperspeed reader — someone capable of averaging more than a book a day. Those kinds of speeds are unobtainable by us mere mortals, I strongly suspect, but I also know that many people who wish they could read more — normal readers like me — really can do so, if they put in the effort. And my technique for reading more and faster basically boils down to that: trying hard to do so.
Although there is also a useful secret to reading more that I’ve learned the hard way, which I’ll impart at the end of this post . . .
But, basically, the way to read more books per year is to read more books per year — sounds a bit like advising would-be Olympians to go compete the Olympics, doesn’t it? — but in this case the goal and the means really are the same. It’s the same as the oft repeated advice to writers that the only way to learn writing is to write. Well, the only way to learn reading is to read, but of course the problem with that is everybody already does read. Or do they?
Read More Read More
Surprised by the dust on all those books you ‘just bought’ but haven’t gotten to yet? To-be-read pile threatening to topple and crush you under its weight? Tired of being left out of conversations about authors you haven’t read yet? Me too. All of this is common enough for any bibliophile, to varying degrees or another, and its nice that we can commiserate. That is, most of us can, but not all of us, for there is a strange breed that lives among us with the book-lover’s equivalent of superpowers — the hyperspeed reader.
Case in point, Sarah Weinman, columnist and reviewer for the LA Times online, read 462 books last year. That’s Four Hundred Sixty-Two. By any stretch of the definition, that’s a lot of books, and over qualifies Weinman for my rule-of-thumb classification of a hyperspeed reader: someone that averages more than a book a day. You can read an interview with Weinman about her remarkable feat over at the LA Times ‘Jacket Copy’ blog column.
Not being one of these hyperspeed readers, I am of course insanely jealous. I mean , I dedicate an enormous amount of time to reading, but my best run doesn’t even come half-way to matching Weinman’s year. However, resigned as I am that I can never match it — I just don’t think those sort of savant-level abilities can be trained in mid-life, if at all — the temptation is to, of course, analyze what she’s doing and conclude that she isn’t really enjoying those books fully, isn’t immersing herself in the joy of language and richness of an author’s style when she moves so quickly through each book. But I can’t really believe that, not based on what she’s said in her interview, and not based on anything other than my own naked envy. So, just what is it Weinman and the other hyperspeed readers are doing?
Read More Read More
Naughty or nice? Well, the holidays being my favorite excuse to procrastinate, I’ll have to reluctantly admit to ‘naughty.’ Being naughty, I’ve left my blog entry to the last minute. I’ve had a few New Yearsie ideas I thought I might advance, the kinds of things having to do with resolutions — mostly of the writing variety. But writing has been well enough covered at Black Gate of late and, while I know we have a lot of writers in our audience, I can’t help but think the thing that really pulls us all together, and sets us apart from, well, from a great many people who would never pick up a work of fiction let alone investigate the website of a fantasy magazine, is that we are all readers. First and foremost, that defines us.
But I’ll leave the meditation on what it is to be a reader, and how it changes the way we relate to the world, for another time — or perhaps I’ll just leave it for James Enge as he has been on a philosophical roll lately. Thinking about reading, and my relationship to (or obsession with) books, and thinking about the New Year and the sort of goals and promises we make for ourselves, got me thinking about my reading list.
Maybe you have one, too? Well, if you don’t, now would be the time of year to start. My own list is very simple, a small notebook in which I make note of the title and author(s) of every book I read, as I finish them. I have some rules governing what goes in — for example magazines don’t — and a few other simple notations that let me know if it is a book I am rereading, or a graphic novel, etc. I started keeping it when I turned twenty-one — nine years later I started a second notebook that shows every sign of running out of pages before I’m forty.
Read More Read More