Guest Post by: Alejandra Rodriguez Creixell, whitefox’s current marketing intern.
Last week The Bookseller reported that big Publishers in the US are giving away $250m in free e-books as part of the Obama scheme. While this is a great initiative that will allow children with low-income families (who can afford e-readers) to have easier access to discovering reading, this alone will not be not enough. Yes, it is tempting to throw money (or free books) at the problem, but doing so only creates a temporary fix. If we truly want to get to the root of the problem, we have to dig deeper.
Based on personal experience, the most used excuse for not reading enough is lack of time to read. Or, better said, the apparent lack of time. The reality is this: we’re stuck in a culture that upholds books as a source of knowledge and therefore frown at the idea of leaving a book unfinished. Consequently, we get stuck reading books we don’t enjoy and stop reading because we forget the pleasure we get from it. Our current culture asks: Why would you toss away the opportunity of a read? Common sense would reply: why would you throw away an opportunity of doing something that actually gives you pleasure?
If we really want to get children from low-income families (and children in general) to read more, we have to encourage them to drop the book when they’re no longer interested in the story and help them find another one. Free eBooks, thankfully, make accessibility and moving to a new book easier because there’s no loss of money involved. (Though, to be fair, I’ve never seen parents force their child play a videogame, regardless of the money they spent on it).
We also have stop treating books as if they will always be a source of wisdom or an artistic object and more like a source of entertainment. We should be more open to allowing children to read what they want and not focus so much on what they’re reading. After all, 50 Shades of Grey got more people reading than The Goldfinch.
There is a joke in Spanish that goes like this:
A priest and a bus driver die at the same time. The bus driver goes to heaven and the priest goes to hell. Before being sent to hell the priest, surprised, asks St. Peter for the reason behind this. St. Peter replies:
“Because when you told mass, your congregation fell asleep. When he drove, his passengers prayed.”
As publishers, we need to stop thinking that books are solely an art form or a knowledge source that should be forced onto people. Instead, we have to be open to the different reasons people read and provide as many different choices as possible. In other words, we need to stop people from falling asleep and create an environment that will get them reading.