Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Slate

Teenagers & Reading ~ Two Views

I have, counting this post, 13 articles here that are tagged Wattpad <— go ahead, take that link and you’ll see this post plus all the others (and, if you take that link at some point in the future {and, I write about Wattpad again} you’ll see all the other ones, too :-)

More on Wattpad in a bit

There are two recent articles that both refer to a third, all about teens and reading:

First the two:

from Slate: The New Yorker Essay About How Kids Don’t Read Takes the “Get Off My Lawn” Genre to Dark New Depths

from The Guardian: Teen readers aren’t in crisis, they’re just making their own rules

Both of those articles are trying to correct the claims in the following article from The New Yorker

Do Teens Read Seriously Anymore?

You can decide if you want to read the first two after I’ve shared a few excerpts from the third one:

“It’s very likely that teen-agers, attached to screens of one sort or another, read more words than they ever have in the past. But they often read scraps, excerpts, articles, parts of articles, messages, pieces of information from everywhere and from nowhere. It’s likely that they are reading fewer books.”

Remember, for later, that he said it’s likely they’re reading fewer books

“Yes, millions of kids have read Harry Potter, “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hunger Games,” and other fantasy and dystopian fictions; also vampire romance, graphic novels (some very good), young-adult novels (ditto), and convulsively exciting street lit. Yet what happens as they move toward adolescence? When they become twelve or thirteen, kids often stop reading seriously.”

Notice the broad implication about “serious” reading…

“Much of their social life, for boys as well as girls, is now conducted on smartphones, where teen-agers don’t have to confront one another.”

One more:

“Reading frustrates their smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. Suddenly, they are stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and many are glum about it.”

O.K., I can stop excerpting now; but, if you want to read a person seriously out of touch with the teen world, you can finish that piece

Now, I want to share a link to another article, from the magazine Eater, called Here’s Anthony Bourdain’s Foreword to Marilyn Hagerty’s Book Grand Forks, and, as I share an excerpt, trust me I’ll tie all this together:

“If you’re looking for the kind of rapturous food porn you’d find in a book by M.F.K. Fisher, or lusty descriptions of sizzling kidneys a la Liebling—or even the knife-edged criticism of an AA Gill or a Sam Sifton—you will not find it here.

“The territory covered here is not New York or Paris or London or San Francisco. And Marilyn Hagerty is none of those people.

“For 27 years, Marilyn Hagerty has been covering the restaurant scene in and around the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota, population 52,000.”

So, what does that excerpt about food snobbery and a more humble and honest food writer have to do with teens and whether they’re reading “seriously”?

First, what is “serious” reading for a teen?

Let me start before that—what is “serious” reading for a six-year-old?

Is it Shakespeare?

And, “should” teens be reading Charlotte Brontë or Ray Bradbury or Allen Ginsberg?

Maybe that writer in The New Yorker wants teens to be reading the equivalent of “rapturous food porn”

Remember that excerpt up there that said: “Reading frustrates their smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. Suddenly, they are stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and many are glum about it.”?

Now, I can close the circle and bring Wattpad back.

There are over 40 million folks using Wattpad to read (for free) !

And, somewhere around 80% of those people are below the age of 18 !!

Plus, about 85% of those teens are reading on their smartphones !!!

And, for me, the real clincher is that most of those roughly 32 million teens are also writing on Wattpad !!!!


Just ran out of !s…

So, my experience of Wattpad includes teens and they read my serious books and they leave me serious comments and they’re doing it on their smartphones

Nuff said…

The defense rests…
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Will All The Bookstores Die?

What with all the hoopla over Barnes & Noble and Borders struggling and dying and the surge of e-book sales, many folks fear that bookstores will all go away.

Independent Bookstores

Image Courtesy of Julia Freeman-Woolpert ~

I’ve addressed this issue in past posts—here are links to two of them:

Why Are Bookstores Dying? ~or~ How To Understand The “News” About Books…

Are Physical Bookstores Really A Thing of The Past?

However, Husna Haq, writing for the CSM, has a recent article called, Indie bookstores are on the rise: What’s behind their comeback?

She admits that “…for years, indies did appear to be goners. Between 2000 and 2007, some 1,000 independent bookstores closed, according to the American Booksellers Association (ABA).

She references an article, from 2006, on Slate, that says:

“Ever since the rise of the book superstore in the 1990s, we have been flooded with lamentations for the rapidly disappearing independent booksellers—cool hang-outs where the staff knows something about literature, the owners select each title with care, and bearded patrons sit at crowded coffee tables, talking about Jack Kerouac or the latest translation of Tolstoy.”

Then, she says:

“But that wasn’t the end of the story. After a precipitous fall, indie bookstores are making a quiet, but sure, comeback. In fact, the number of independent bookstores has increased 25 percent since 2009, according to the ABA. What’s more, sales are up, too.”

She shares three shouts:

“The Independent Bookstore Lives!” trumpeted Salon. “The Bookstore Strikes Back”, declared The Atlantic. “Indie Bookstores Aren’t Dead”, announced the Huffington Post.

And, the last bit I’ll share from her article (do go read it all…):

“…it was Borders, not the indies, that went out of business; Barnes & Noble has struggled; and e-book sales have leveled off, leaving print books as the most popular medium of choice…”

Even though I’m happy to buy books from Amazon for my Tablet (right now I have 289 books on it…), I’d Love to have a decent Indie bookstore near me

Just like that Slate article said:

“…cool hang-outs where the staff knows something about literature, the owners select each title with care, and bearded patrons sit at crowded coffee tables, talking about Jack Kerouac or the latest translation of Tolstoy.”

So, to cap off this post, I’ll share some reasons to support Indie bookstores, from a great site, IndieBound:

The Economy

  • Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community–where they belong.

The Environment

  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.

The Community

  • Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
  • Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
  • More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

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Do Physical Libraries Still Matter?

Are libraries—the ones you have to leave home to visit—still important?


Image Courtesy of Holger Dieterich ~

Can they survive in this digital age?

Will they become digital themselves?

Are physical books and their collections going away?

I have a few handfuls of posts I’ve done on libraries and I should share four of them:

So, What Are Libraries Good For, Now That So Many People Use the Internet?

The E-Book Wars & Your Public Library . . .

Publisher Helps Local Libraries Become Community Publishers !

A Place Called LibraryThing ~ A Space To Have A Love Affair With Books

I have a friend who’s a prison librarian and he recently sent me a link to an interesting article on SlateWhat Will Become of the Library?

I know one thing my friend probably liked about that article was the mention of Andrew Carnegie—the man who endowed 2,500 public libraries in the United States.

As a young boy, Carnegie benefited form a lending library operated by someone from Pittsburgh, the hometown of my friend the prison librarian…

I encourage you to read the full article over on Slate but I need to share one particular quote:

“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen, instead. … A mall—the shops—are places where your money makes the wealthy wealthier. But a library is where the wealthy’s taxes pay for you to become a little more extraordinary, instead.”

Then, there’s another article about libraries I discovered on my daily scans of the news—written by the Director of the Harvard Law School Library—Why Libraries [Still] Matter.

He brings up the facility of seeking information on the Web and says:

“I co-authored a study investigating link rot in legal scholarship and judicial opinions, and was shocked to find that, circa late 2013, nearly three out of four links found within all Harvard Law Review articles were dead. Half of the links in U.S. Supreme Court opinions were dead.”

I can only imagine how many links to non-law-related information are dying every second…

He ends the article with this statement:

“In a world suffused with so much transient information as to inspire epistemic paralysis, we acutely need libraries’ power, independence, and ethos: institutions conceived to fight on behalf of their patrons, which is to say for the public and for the preservation and intelligibility of the public record.”

Do you still visit physical libraries?

What do you think they can do to stay alive when military spending, among other financial escapades, is inducing public austerity and stripping libraries of the funds they need?
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Financial “Entitlement” Morphs Into “Legal” Outrage ~ Amazon & Hachette

Heard about the Battle—major retailer and big publisher?

Does it “matter”?


But, probably not in the way most of the news coverage would have you believe.

I’m going to give you a few links to some of the more ridiculous stories; but, first, I need to give you some defense against the verbal barrage.

Last year, in the post, So, What The Hell Is Wrong With Traditional Publishers?, I featured a piece by David Gaughran:

“Right after he indicates that the two essential players in the book-world are writers and readers and that retailers are at least acting somewhat rational about justifying their cut of the money (leaving agents, publishers, and distributors in a somewhat suspicious position), he says:

“’Publishers seem determined to move in the opposite direction: making the proposition of publishing with them less attractive rather than more attractive, reducing advances, worsening contract terms, and treating writers as marks rather than partners – despite whatever guff accompanies the launch of their latest initiatives.’”

And, another bit of defense against the other articles I’ll link to is this from Forbes:

As Hachette Battles Amazon, A Small Publisher Defends Bezos (Bezos owns Amazon)

O.K., here comes the media blitz

An apologist piece from The New York TimesHachette Chief Leads Book Publishers in Amazon Fight—that begins with “…Mr. Pietsch [the boss at Hachette] finds himself fighting not just for the future of Hachette, but for that of every publisher that works with Amazon.”

Hmm they seem to be overlooking that small publisher up there

Then, there’s the piece in SlateBringing Down the Hachette—that says:

“Literature could end up suffering

“If publishers make less money on every book, they are going to pay people less to write and edit them, and talented people will decide to do something else with their time.”

Maybe they could, uh self-publish………?

Plus, the article in Money MagazineWhy Amazon Is Battling Book Publishers — in Three Charts.

Maybe there’s some meat in this one but I’m a bit suspicious about reducing a complex issue to a few charts—as they say, the “map” isn’t the “territory”

And, again from The New York Times, an article that prompted the title I gave this post—How Book Publishers Can Beat Amazon—which has these incendiary words:

“…unless Amazon backs down — through public pressure or government intervention — publishers will have no choice but to employ their own nuclear option…”

Finally, a piece from the Miami Herald—“Publishers could defeat Amazon — here’s how”—which, even with its overkill title, makes a bit of sense:

“To be sure, what Amazon is doing is of the brass-knuckle variety, and while I get that authors are upset, the reality is that it is publishers who have made a Faustian bargain: Unwilling to make their cost structures viable in a digital world predicated on much lower costs and much higher volume, and unable to build their own DRM and companion devices, publishers embraced the Kindle’s DRM, and thus gave Amazon complete power over the only means of enforcing the artificial scarcity that undergirded their old-fashioned business model.”

Anyone with any opinions about this issue is encouraged to leave a comment
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