I AM PART OF A DIMINISHING SPECIES of people who like to hold, thumb, page, and read books. I am also part of an increasing species of people who are reading less from paper and more from screens. On my fortnightly pilgrimages to Dublin, I walk through Hodges and Figgis and see the evidence first-hand: fewer people are standing around the shelves and reading what they see in the shop. A few years ago, I read that back in the 14th century, Edward III swapped 80 oxen for one illustrated tome, thinking that he'd pulled off a royal deal. Just last semester, I smiled when a half dozen students bragged that they had never read a Sunday newspaper. As the next term starts, I don't expect to find any first year creative multimedia degree student who will admit to "literary reading" as a leisure activity. That part of Irish leisure is well and truly part of the old age pensioner's lifestyle.
I'm concerned at the demise of literary reading--the reading of fiction, poetry, or plays. It has declined among all specified ethnic groups, at all educational levels, among all age groups, and among both women and men. In US research, the "steepest decline in literary reading is in the youngest age groups". For example, the decline goes from 59.8 percent in 1982's 18-to-24 group to 42.8 percent in groups surveyed in 2002. The decline in literary reading correlates with increased participation in Facebook, Twitter, and discussion boards. Sociological research shows that when literary reading declines, so does an interest in cultural events. Participation in civic activities declines too because literary readers participate more actively than nonreaders in volunteer and charity work, and more frequently patronize performing-arts events, sports events, and museums.
Carlin Romano -- "Who killed literary reading?" from the Chronicle Review, July 23, 2004.
Maureen Corrigan -- Leave Me Alone. I'm Reading. ISBN 978-0375709036