Newsletter 1

2014: The Year of the Reader

Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

It has never been a better time to be a reader! It’s a brand new year, and already articles declaring the decline of books and reading are popping up on the internet, so several of us here at Book Riot took a moment to explain why we feel 2014 will be the best year for books and reading yet. Because – spoiler alert – we love books!

I only see the YA explosion continuing to grow in 2014, which means more diverse offerings in an already diverse field, all of which results in more and more kids finding more and more books that actually speak to them, hooking them into a lifelong reading habit. Anytime I hear people grouching about kids not reading anymore, I wonder when the last time they actually talked to kids was. Ask them about their favorite books. They have a lot to say. – Jill Guccini

Well, here’s a short-but-sweet story: I had a class visit this morning at my library comprised of about 40 kindergarteners. When I asked them “Who likes to read?” every hand immediately shot up. For this (and other reasons) I have faith in the future of reading. – Rita Meade

After a couple years of angst and hand-wringing about how ebooks would be the death of publishing, publishers started to come around in 2013 to the notion that evolution doesn’t have to be bad, and they started trying some really interesting stuff with digital publishing. There were attempts at ebook-print book bundling and digital exclusives and ebook subscription services, and while not all of them were good, some were great. And that’s what matters. The shift from “change is bad” to “change means doing things differently” was really encouraging, and I’m excited to see what innovations 2014 will bring. Readers have more options than ever, and that’s rad. – Rebecca Joines Schinsky

_20140112_170559The list of amazing books being released this year could reach the moon and back! See the picture on the left? Those are just the advance reading copies that were in my immediate reach! That is a monkey-ton of amazing stuff, all coming out in 2014. And the internet has brought added delight to being a book fiend: You can read all about the books you love, find out when books are coming out, buy books, talk to people about books, even talk to authors! How is that not amazing?! If you would rather write an article about how people are reading less instead of reading a book, then please give all your books to me. I’d rather be reading them. – Liberty Hardy

There has never been a better time to find readers with similar tastes and sensibilities. With the explosion of online communities devoted to reading, it’s easier than it has ever been to find and connect with people over books. Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary activity anymore unless you want it to be that way. My reading life has expanded exponentially since I found the online book community, and I think that will only continue in 2014. – Kim Ukura

I completely agree that online communities have only been good for readers. Because of recommendations from friends both old and new, I have found wonderful writers and books that I never would have known about otherwise. Plus, being able to talk about books with people all around the country and the world transports me back to my classroom days (both as a student and a teacher) when I had lots of people with whom I could discuss what I’d read. It truly is a wonderful time to be a reader, whether you get your books via paper or e-reader. – Rachel Cordasco

We have some good crunchy numbers to prove that readers love books more than ever. A December 2013 Pew study showed that 72% of Americans live in a household that uses their public library. Audiobook sales are up 30% over last year, too, as reported by the Wall Street Journal in their August 2013 article, “The New Explosion in Audio Books.” Readers may be getting more creative about how to get our book fix, but we’re doing it like gangbusters. I doubled the number of books I read last year thanks to libraries, audiobooks, and my iPhone, and I’ve heard the exact same story from countless other readers. It’s an awesome time to be a reader! – Rachel Smalter Hall

An artform can only be pronounced dead so many times before one starts wondering if its would-be coroners have a vested interest in publicising the demise. 2014, if we’re lucky, may finally be the year we stop treating such prophecies of doom as dispassionate reporting and start seeing them for what they are: an attempt to prejudice and control the future of literature.

We are told literature and the people who practice it are threatened by technology, by economics, by our own dwindling attention span – but never by itself. There’s a lesson there, I think. Art breeds intelligence, critical thought and constructive engagement. As such, it often acts as the means of its own salvation, no matter how grim its circumstances.

“Hungry man, reach for the book: it is a weapon,” wrote Brecht. Yes, these are hard times, with no apparent end in sight. Literature has faced hard times before, and for those who suffer the most, it is often the first and last refuge. It has struggled and changed and fought back. And it has always, always won.

No one should be stupid enough to bet against those odds. – Sean Bell

There never have been more ways to get a wider variety of books. It’s that simple. – Jeff O’Neal

We have more books, available to more people, who have a better literacy rate than at almost any other point in human history. But maybe best of all, the kids are reading. Credit it to the Harry Potter phenomenon, or perhaps just general youthful reaction against the behavior of their elders — who, as Stephen King put it, “had the chance to change the world and opted for the Home Shopping Network” — but wherever the credit goes, the fact is that I see an awful lot of kids and teens who are reading. Books come more naturally to them than past generations, I think. They’re raised on the internet and social networks and these things give them a level of comfort with texts of varying lengths, so books? They take to that like fish to water. Every morning, I stand outside as mine and loads of other kids filter onto a school bus, and I never see less than half a dozen kids nearly fall as they walk up the stairs because their faces are stuck in books and comics. It’s much the same with kids everywhere, and it is so damn fantastic.

(The other reason it’s a golden age, I think, is that the quality and quantity of excellent books has only gone up. I think we are, right now, seeing books in all genres of such excellence, we will be studying them for decades to come. This is a damn good time to be reading.) – Peter Damien

Readers are more passionate about reading now than ever before, and with many more ways to disseminate that passion. That passion is infectious. It leads new readers to great books. And so reading will only continue to grow and get better. – Greg Zimmerman

I love this time period in publishing and reading because it reminds me so much of the birth of modern art. From concerns about “deskilling,” or the lack of quality control in self-published books, to the incorporation of new technology, experimentation with everything from storytelling to format, to the avalanche of writing and criticism concerned with books and the publishing industry, for me this is a very exciting time to be a reader and writer. I don’t know where publishing is headed, but I do know three things: books are more accessible than ever before, there more types of books being published and read than have been in a long time, and the average person gives a crap. As far as I’m concerned, those are all only awesome things. – Tasha Brandstatter

I wake up every single day excited about the things that I’ll be able to read that day because I know that there is something for every mood and every inclination. It has never been so easy to scratch my reading itch. The material is everywhere, and I can get it in an instant. Instant gratification is a beautiful thing. – Cassandra Neace

In the 1950 & 60s microwaves came into kitchens, Marshmallow Fluff and other equally easy yet nutrient-deprived recipes made their way onto the tables of families everywhere. Death to the oven, death to time-consuming kitchen time, death to cooking! And then came Julia Child and Alice Waters and farm to table food. It’s amazing how humans are able to regulate themselves by going too far in the wrong direction and coming back to what is good and balanced and healthy. There are few things that do what reading does – enriching the soul, the imagination, and the mind at the same time while actually benefitting the physical being (the brain). We may love our TV, our smartphones, computers, and tablets, but we don’t want Marshmallow Fluff for the rest of time. We’re better than that. – Wallace Yovetich


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