Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Okay, admit it. You’ve accused the younger generation of practically having their thumbs permanently affixed to gamepads, right? Or if not gaming, you expect them to be found texting or talking on their iPhones. Thumb dexterity is at an all time high and we wonder what this is going to mean for the future of books.
I think it was about ten years ago that I talked to several Gen-Xers and some Gen Ys about books. I was surprised by the number who confessed that they had never read “a whole book” for pleasure. I found it frightening. Over the years we’ve heard predictions that book consumption would drop sharply once the Boomers quit buying books.
I have good news. All those who predicted that the Millennial generation would eventually abandon books altogether are eating crow these days.
This from a recent Bowker press release: “Generation Y, those born between 1979 and 1989, spent the most money on books in 2011, taking over long-held book-buying leadership from Baby Boomers. GenY’s 2011 book expenditures rose to 30 percent — up from 24 percent in 2010 – passing Boomers, 25 percent share. And with 43 percent of GenY’s purchases going to online channels, they are adding momentum to the industry shift to digital.”
My eldest daughter, Rebecca, a 30-something college instructor, is a case in point. She devours books. Since getting her Kindle Fire in January she reports that she has read some 130 books. And lest you think these are college texts or lofty classics, she confesses she loves commercial fiction, both contemporary and historical. Stephanie Plum is her girl.
Two weeks ago I received a letter from a member of the Y Generation I will treasure for a long time to come:
My name is ——– and I am currently a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. In the fall of my eighth grade, my mother read your book, The Tinker’s Daughter, aloud to me and my sister, ——-. The three of us absolutely loved it and have been talking about it ever since. In fact, although I rarely get the chance to see my sister anymore since she is an undergrad at Wheaton, I can’t remember a vacation in the past couple of years when one of us hasn’t looked at the other and whispered: “And she crushed a sprig of rosemary in her pocket.” It is funny how sometimes the smallest things mean the most to us.
You can understand why this touched me. For a reader to remember a line from the book ten years later. . . well, I’m humbled. Knowing that this Midshipman connected with books in that way makes me ever more hopeful for a new generation of voracious readers. And the fact that the study by Bowker Market Research and Publisher’s Weekly confirms it is just icing on the cake.
Keep writing. It’s looks like the audience is growing. Yippee!
What are you observing with the Gen X and Gen Y people you know? Are you seeing the same thing?