Still Reading, After All This Time

With the introduction of Kindle 2: Electric Book-aloo, I have been thinking a lot about what Steve Jobs said about the first Kindle, something along the lines of, “It doesn’t matter, people don’t read anymore.” Now, I am a fan of what Steve Jobs has done, but I will admit, this comment really bothered me. Perhaps I was just in my “defend the underdog” mode, but I just thought it was unfair… to what, I don’t know. Reading? Readers? People who appreciate the concept of books?

Now, I have always been a reader. Both of my parents taught English and writing and we had books everywhere, so not reading was never really an option. As I have gotten older, however, I have found that not everyone values reading as much as I thought. For many folks, reading is not relaxing, it’s not something they value doing, it’s not something they think about all that much. Of course, the medium and the type of content has a lot to do with it. Even the people I know that don’t really read books still read magazines and websites, it just seems there’s a resistance to reading when there are no pictures involved. Or something. Maybe books are too heavy? I don’t know.

When I was a kid, as much as my parents encouraged my reading of books, they weren’t always so hot on comic books. Like, my mom really distrusted them for some reason — she always said them with a sneer that I am not sure she really was conscious of. I know that many of their generation, perhaps comics were less than reputable, but still, it seemed odd to see their faces change when they found me reading comics as opposed to regular books. Of course, I think they should have been stoked — I was reading these books over and over again and I was getting some pretty great art training as well.

They never really got over it, either. When I tell them I write for a comic book discussion website, I think all they hear is, “I write ___ _ _____ ____ ____,” which makes them happy, but I bet they have never read anything I’ve written. Hmm… sounds like I might need to see a therapist… I’ve been having these dreams where I keep losing my teeth, and that’s supposedly like some impotence thing? Like… what is that about…

Anyway, so, yeah, I was thinking about how many people out there grew up reading comics even though their parents did not support them, or, in some cases, downright discouraged the reading of the funny books. I remember many time when my entire comic collection (such as it was, though, I admit, Power Pack was kinda lame) was under threat of trashing unless I did some chore or apologize for something I did wrong… which, of course, made comics that much more illicit: my parents hate them, therefore they must be good! I know a lot of people like that, and I remember one time reading that J. Michael Straczynski’s dad straight-up burned all his comics in front of JMS because there was no future in them.

Which brings me to the current day. Now, I don’t have kids, but my friends who do certainly don’t have the negative associations with comics books, so I think, finally, we are in a time where kids and be invited to read comics as a way of getting them to read! What a (graphic) novel concept: help kids read the books they actually like reading! And there are so many titles out there appropriate for all kinds of kids that are often entertaining for adults, so then the parent and child can actually discuss and share the story together. All good, right? Finally, comics are legitimate! We can all read and be happy!!!!

But, oh — wait: “No one reads anymore.”

Perfect timing right? Just when we have the perfect way to get kids into reading, Steve Jobs tells us that no one reads anymore.

Now, I get it: young folks are entrenched in a multimedia culture where video is pervasive and reading is delegated to small chunks of information — the USA Today meets YouTube effect (that I just created). And I know that we are all getting used to getting all kinds of media in all kinds of ways — when I was in Tokyo last week, my friends showed me their phones showing broadcast TV on them, their phones had little antennas that folded out so you could just watch whatever was on — and we’ll continue to see this “new” media (just “now” media, really) continue to be more and more pervasive. But the idea that no one reads, let alone reads books just doesn’t make sense. Look at the Harry Potter books. And the Twilight books. And… well… just look at those some more, there are other titles that your teenage friends probably know about. They’re out there, for reals.

The Kindle, which is not a book killer, in my humble opinion (500,000 units sold? pfft), is definitely evidence of a continued digitization of an analog experience — it’s yet another alternative delivery mechanism for media. Of course, we’ve talked about alternative delivery of comics before, and the book world is going through the same pains — rising costs, shrinking audience, let’s all look to technology to save the day! And while there are lots of ways to read “books” on portable devices, it’s just not satisfying. For fun, I tried reading an ebook on my iPhone, and, like, yes, I was technically reading, but I just feel like the spirit of the book is lost. The great thing about reading a books is the physical experience of time passing as you go through the books. As you progress through a book, you are turning pages, with eventually way more pages behind you than ahead. You open the book to enter the story — clicking on a book title just doesn’t give you that transformational experience. When you are done with the story, you are done with the book, it is a complete experience, you put it down, perhaps you put it on the shelf, and you have to actually go get another book if you want to read a different story. With an ebook, Kindle or whatever, you just close the window and open another screen. Maybe it’s more efficient, but sometimes, efficiency isn’t always what it’s all about.

While the Kindle 2 got a lot of press coverage, it was partly because there wasn’t much else to distract us from all the dire news about the economy and all that associated madness (Chadwick Matlin’s got a nice article about this on Slate). After the press kinda relaxed a bit, all we found out that the new version might be a bit faster, is bit thinner, has a joystick, and, uhm… looks a tad different? And it’s still over $300?!

I mean, maybe I am a dinosaur or a caveman or a strange hybrid of the two, but I just feel like books are going to always be with us and I think people will continue to read them. Sure, we can find studies showing people are reading less, and yes, I guess kids are not reading as much. Well, if you have a kid and you value reading, it’s certainly a great time to be a parent, now that there are so many awesome comics to share with your kid. I mean, if a kid likes Spider-Man or Superman, wham! Tons of comics… and we could go on and on.

Is there room for a portable book reader? Sure — I bet it would be awesome to have one while traveling; flying around with a massive hardcover book is, quite honestly, a pain in the shoulder. But if you ask me — and no one has — I think a full color Kindle that could show photographs, videos and, yes, comic books, it would be quite awesome. But it’s not here yet so I won’t talk about it since I have already written enough and you’ve got things to do.

What about you? We all like reading comics. What do/did your parents think of your comic book reading? For you parents out there, do you think that sharing comics with your kids helps them become interested in reading? In drawing?

Mike Romo’s an actor in LA who learned the phrase “I know where you’re coming from” from an issue of The Incredible Hulk he read as a kid. Mike can be reached at and socially networked at Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Easily my favorite article in a good while. Very well done, Mike. My parents have always tolerated my comic reading because they know i don’t just read comics. I love my philosophy, my novels, have been on Joyce kick lately.

    I think one of the problems that might be worth mentioning here is the dficulty in contnuing to build literacy. It is so very easy to read things which are familair, be they in form or content. Somewhere along the line, I think we forget (I do) to consider reading the mental ecercise it is. Sure, every piece of art has aesthetic value, but the fun of reading is the exposure to ideas, rhettric, style, all of which force us to expand mentally.

    So the question sort of becomes, once a person reaches a functional level of luteracy, how can that person be encouraged to keep going bryond their pet medium of comics, novels, plays, etc.

    I don’t know, but Leo Strauss has a theory which I’ve always enjoyed:

    "Liberal education will then consist in studying with the proper care the great books which the greatest minds have left behind — a study in which the more experienced pupils assist the less experienced pupils, including the beginners" 1959 Lecture entititled  "What is Liberal education?" 



  2. This article definitely struck a chord with me.  My father was also an English teacher and he absolutely hated that I started reading comics.  When I was really little I would get a random comic from somewhere and somehow it would magically disappear never to be found again.  Eventually I had my own money and bought them myself and I still read other things so he left me alone.

    I have to small kids and this last Christmas I bought my daughter a High School Mucsical graphic novel and my son who isn’t old enough to read a Marvel Adventures book and they have eaten them up.  Now my daughter asked me if I had anything else so I gave her my trades of Bone and she absolutely loves them.  She reads these and still reads her other non-picture books. 

    I would love a Kindle but I’m not paying over $300 for it.  I’ll stick to the library and paper for now.  I still think a digital reader for comics is the way of the future for the industry but until then I will keep picking up my trades as budget allows.

    I definitely agree with Dave on the point that you have to stretch yourself a bit and read different things to keep up the mental aspects.  If my reading gets to comiccentric I actually find reading a regular novel or non-fiction book to be more difficult and tiring.

  3. Awesome article. I am actually writing a research paper about why comics should be included in English classes. During my research I found that many libraries in elementry schools have had to increase thier graphic novel sections because of the growing demand from younger kids.   

  4. Just when I thought I had completed my list of reasons why Steve Jobs could kiss my ass, I hear the Kindle is doomed no matter how good it is because people don’t read anymore. People don’t read anymore BECAUSE THERE IS NO GOOD KINDLE, you immeasurable douchebag. Oh, I can’t wait for the pendulum to swing back at that guy.

    I still have not quite mentally reconciled what was going on with my parents and comics. My mom never stopped giving me grief about the fact that I spent my entire allowance on comics, and my mom never stopped driving me to the shop on new comics day every single week. And giving me the money in the first place. And buying me trades for Christmas every year, while sighing, "I just don’t know what you see in those things" as I opened them. No idea what was going on there.

  5. I never got word one of grief from my mom or anyone about comics.  And look at me now!

    Also, Jobs seems to have incurable pancratic cancer.  So there’s that.  I’m also sitting in a room with at least 4 mac computers (another one in the other room), and at least 3-4 ipods of various vintage.  Either way, that’s a lame thing to say.

  6. It always drives me mad that I see less and less reading happening with my generation (20’s and younger age demographic). I find the people in my life that do read are much better at holding conversation, finishing thoughts and all around are better people.

    The problem with the "Harry Potter" and "Twilight" examples is that in my experience alot of the younger people that read those books read just those books, and I don’t mean those kinds of books, I really mean just THOSE books. My sister for example burned through the Twilight series, when she was done she had no interest in reading anything else, I know people that will re-read the Harry Potter series again and again, but have no interest in picking up anything else, not even something in that same genre, and I’ve seen that alot lately. Picking up of the "fad" books, but not branching out, I do wonder what causes that.

    Great article btw. 

  7. It’s funny that you brought up this topic today Paul, as I just saw an Education Week online article about how schools are beginning to use more comic books and graphic novels in classrooms.  One of the reasons cited is that the anecdotal evidence indicates kids who read comic books tend to read more in general and read more material in other genres. 

    My parents never really gave me grief over reading comics.  How I organized them, whole other story.  But reading comics definitely seemed to make me a reading addict- if I don’t have a comic to read, I’ll find something else to give me my fix, dad gum it.

  8. Great article. My parents were never into reading anything at all, so I had to get my fix on my own. I don’t know why and how, but I got addicted, and still am today. But to be hones, I’m mostly alone in my social circle. They all have their great education and their "ideas" about life and how everything goes to hell, and yet they cannot be convinced to pick up a book or let alone comic book. Al I hear is that they need to "form an opinion on their own. I guess sitting in front of the TV provides that, no?

    And I don’t think Steve Jobs made that comment to sneer upon the people that read. I think that he wanted to hide the fact, that Apple is working on a Kindle of their own, maybe an iBook? (See what I did there =)) But that’s just my 2cents…

  9. Sorry, meant Mike, not Paul…

  10. My parents dont mind my comic book buying either, but they are confused on why I go every Wednesday. ‘Why do you go every wednesday?’, Mom asked. ‘Cause that’s when the new comics are released’, I say. (long pause) ‘……That’s a stupid thing for them to do’, she replied. Yeah, that’s how excited you would be if you were at my house right now.

    Anyways, I am worried that a lot of kids arent reading as much anymore as they should. But I believe in the opposite of what Jurassicalien just posted above me. Series like Harry Potter, or Twilight might be the only thing that is making kids read at all. Not only that, but if it wasnt for Hollywood running out of ideas and adapting every single kids book into a film….then I would think my kid’s section at work wouldnt be as huge as it is today.

    I dont understand why it never works for comics, but for some reason (in my area at least) kids are more acceptible to read children series then anything else. Hell kids my age (19) are still reading Harry Potter…..then again there is something wrong with our water supply lately. All we can do right now is just let our future generation in the family read as often as they can; whether it be book, comic book, or magazine form. Recently I made a mother buy her 2 year old daughter an Owly TP and I hope in the future that will be the spark to make her read a lot more. We just all have to look up into the future, no matter how scary that seems to us.

  11. @cylonpete- Apple isn’t developing an iBook.  They’re letting other people do it as iPhone and iTouch apps and then getting the rights to the software.  Just check out the Apps Store and there are a slew of reading-based programs (some for free even).

  12. Great article, Mike!  I will always be grateful to my mom for taking me to story time at the local library when I was little.  I never had siblings, so I used to read all the time.  I still do, though I’ve developed a kind of ADD for novels in recent years and find myself starting a new book and then stopping because I’m distracted by the next one.  Always reading though.  

  13. I didn’t mean to hex Steve Jobs. I had no idea he was sick; I thought that was an unfounded rumor. Now who is the douchebag, Jimski?

  14. Great article. I agree that there will always be a place for non-digital books.

    I didn’t start reading comics until I was an adult, but my very literate mom (former English teacher) does indeed tend to roll her eyes or frown whenever I bring up the fact that I read them now.


  15. @Jimski – Don’t take it too hard.  We are all douchebags at heart.

    My parents strongly encouraged reading in any form (I thank them for that on a regular basis).  I also encourage my daugthers and read to them as often as possible.  I recently picked up the Wizard of Oz sketchbook (from the new Marvel series) to let them check that out (they are 4 and almost 3 years old.)

  16. I am an English teacher  (my students are at lunch right now) and I can verify that the only books I see kids reading are Harry Potter and Twilight. Hell, they’ll read the books in the Twilight series seven or eight times. When I ask them why, they usually say it’s because they like the story. I use that as an opportunity to suggest other novels – y’know, there’s more than one good story, right? I’ve turned quite a few of my students on to Orwell, Rand, and Shakespeare as a result.

    I’ve also used comics as a teaching device – in terms of plot structure, characterization, dialogue, even basic grammar. Thank God for those 10 cent DC comics and 9 cent Marvels. I bought a ton of those to use in the classroom. I even had kids design their own mini graphic novels for a semester project.

    Now if only I could convince my prinicipal to let me teach an elective class with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns

  17. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss kids who ‘only’ read Harry Potter or Twilight.  They’re kids; they’re developing reading habits now, and I’d say that they’re a lot more likely to grow up as readers than if they didn’t have that experience.   

    I’m a late adopter by nature (I got my ipod Nano like a weak before the Touch came out) so it’ll be a while before I have anything like a Kindle.  But I’m sure I’d read on one if I had it — I love the portability of books but I’m not one to wax poetic about ink and paper.  And if it’s the basis for a new model of getting people’s words and images out there, and if there’s a way for writers and artists to get paid for it, I’m all for it.  It’s worth remembering that the words and images are the thing that’s actually being created, and the importance of the book itself is mostly secondary, if it’s important at all. 

  18. I love books, so I’ve always had some sort of thing to read growing up (my mom used to say that her books were her family growing up because she had no brothers and sisters, but I digress) so I always get worried when I see something that could potentially put book stores out of style (I go there when I’m bummed for whatever reason, I dunno).

    As for comics… heck I can’t get a read on my parents. Growing up they didn’t care (provided I read them along with "real" books as they said) and they certainly don’t forbid them now (being in college, I’m still technically "owned" by them). I know for sure that my mom would definitely like me to take better care of them (she doesn’t realize that the average comic won’t be worth much, oh, ever) instead of just stacking them on a shelf, but whatever. I never got the parents/teachers/librarians who wrote off comic books and said they were out-and-out "bad" or a "bad influence," so I usually just avoided them entirely 🙂 

  19. hey all–

    thanks for the great comments! Funny that so many of us had teachers as parents. Interesting.  I do agree–though it’s great that some book series are popular (Twilight, Potter), it is frustrating that kids will just read those books and not branch out. I guess that’s the trick, to get them to read something that not everyone else they know is reading, too. ugh. 

    When I was a kid, my grandparents must have subscribed to the Hardy Boys book club or something because they had, like, 80 of them. They were each about 120 pages and had a few illustrations and I remember blazing through them. I also read a lot of books that my dad has a kid, especially the Tom Swift adventures. I remember thinking it was cool that I was reading the same books as "old people" used to read, and enjoyed the "gee-whiz-golly" sci-fi feel to the books. But I admit, I was a total nerd and since I was staying with my grandparents for a few weeks, it’s not like I had anything else to do.  But that’s all I had–there was no way they were taking me to the comic book shop!

     @FreeBozo – your kids are so lucky to have you as a teacher! I think using comics to talk about story elements is a great idea!  I’m jealous!!  And yes, there’s more than one good story–maybe that’s the way to frame it…


  20. @ ohcaroline – I’m not dismissing these kids at all (I hope I didn’t come across that way). I’m stoked that these kids come in to my classroom with a 700 page book and then tell me that they are on their second or third readthroughs. I’m guessing this is roughly the equivalent of all the Final Crisis issues, tie-ins, and wiki entries :). My comment was more about the students who will read nothing else BUT those books – and again, there’s nothing wrong with that. At least they’re reading…

    Whenever I go out to dinner with my brother, he will always order the same dish at the same restaurant. When I ask him why, he responds, "If I want something different, I’ll go to a different restaurant." I guess it’s kind of like that.

  21. @mike – Thank you.

  22. @mike  I hadn’t really thought about the phenomenon of a few select books being ‘the cool thing’ to read.  That is definitely different than my reading experience as a child, where I had a couple friends or a sibling that I might share a book with, but it was mostly a solitary experience — which has the negative sense of isolation (and sometimes it was) but also the positive experience of developing independence.  And if kids are only reading what their friends read, that important aspect of reading as self-exploration and devleoping your own tastes and views never happens.  It’s not that different from the adults I know who regularly read what Oprah selects, or a book club assigns.  On the other hand, there’s a value to reading the same books that other people read and being able to disucss them; I mean, if I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t be here.

    This is turning out to be more complicated than I thought at first.  I wonder what the ratio of independent to group-oriented readers is; I know I tend to balance both, with a slant toward independent, but I might just assume that’s the regular experience because it’s mine.   

  23. @ohcaroline and @mike Of course, the incessant rereader is nothing new. My most vivid expierence with the the cool crowd menatlity is in  academic departments. Philosophy deparmtents  are particularily  vulnerable to reading things only within  a certain scope. There are some people I know who  actually belive that  Western Philosophy  stopped with Aristotle and only read Aristotle.. The same could be said for Hume fanantics. These judgments are rarely based on rational disagreements with other thinkers. Dogmatics recoil from new ideas or perspective, because there is an idea that everything can be explained in the context o f that dogma.

    This even extends to the crittical schools with which works are anaylyzed.

     Contemporary liteary critics seem to belive that Shakespeare can only be understood in the context of his supossed sexual or racial stereotypes. Formalists (like Strauss) believe in disregarding the social conventions of the time period’s work and focusing only on the structure and effectiveness of the aesthetic experience of a work. Very few(including myself) are able to break from crtical comfort zones. We like our way and refue to allow yours. We like our people nor yours, our thinkers not yours

  24. Jobs is right.  Nobody reads any more.  All signs indicate that Harry Potter and the Twilight books haven’t caused kids or other people to read other books, other than those.  We can rail against it all we like – raise our kids right and do all the right things and the fact of the matter is that every year, Americans because more and more illiterate. 

    Of course, there are still enough readers and there will be for the foreseable future for something like the Kindle to be a success, but it’s never going to have the kind of penetration that the iPod or iPhone have.  It’s a niche product for a niche crowd.

  25. This is interesting. I have been thinking about this idea of why people re-read and realized that I have done it myself, many times. I have read George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books at least 2-3x in so I’m ready for the next book (which always gets delayed). I have actually taken to re-listening to the excellent audiobook versions of the book, which is the first (and, so far) only time I have re-routed my re-reading to a different format.  It’s a great way to re-read a book while on a trip…while I don’t normally listen to audiobooks (not out of malice, it’s just something that I don’t do often for whatever reason), but the ones I have listened to, especially the David Sedaris books, have been very entertaining and a plausibe replacement for the "real thing," though, in Sedaris’ case, I think it has a lot to do with his own great performance/reading of his stories.

     I’ve read several books a few times, mainly because I like the story, but also to catch things I might have missed. Once I’ve read a book twice, though, it’s exceedingly rare I will read it again, unless it’s part of a large series of books and I need to re-read to catch up.  

     But I do tend to watch movies more than twice, which is another situation entirely. I need to think a bit more on why I like to do that so often.

     yay, great discussion!


  26. Great article, and what a coincidence!  My friends and I actually had a huge discussion about books and reading a few weeks ago.  My friend, who has a degree in English and loves Victorian Era literature, said that books will never go extinct and that she will continue to buy actual books.  Her boyfriend, on the other hand, was a Physics major in college and thought otherwise.  Just the fact that Oprah endorsed the Kindle to her whole audience shows us that the digitization of literature is coming.  I believe that no matter what happens, there will be people who will always treasure the feeling of flipping pages on a book.  That’s the same with us comic book readers.  Maybe in 100 years everything will be in some form of digital format, but right now, we still enjoy the feeling of the paper on our fingertips as we flip to the next Lienil Yu splash page.

  27. @PudgyNinja —  "All signs indicate that Harry Potter and the Twilight books haven’t caused kids or other people to read other books, other than those."

    "All signs" = what, exactly?  That’s an honest question.  Is there anyway to measure this, other than anecdotally?  I seem to recall that I read an article recently saying that research showed reading among adults trending upwards over the past couple years, and that not just a couple bestsellers explains it.   There doesn’t really seem to be any hard research on how many people are reading, or what they’re reading, and even the few studies/surveys I’ve seen reported admit to having serious gaps, including that they focus on prose fiction, and ignore the rising popularity of nonfiction. 

  28. Reading is on the rise, according to the brand-new government report, "Reading on the Rise."

    Those are just the first stats I found. I can keep looking if speculation is truly the enemy.

    Always love it when "nobody reads anymore" appears on a growing site about reading, written by a reader and then read by a bunch of people.

  29. Excellent article Mike!  When I was very young my sister taught me to read before Kindergarten began and I was off and running! I remember in 2nd grade aomeone brought a bag full of comics to school and I read my first comic, Marvel Feature #11, great Thing vs. Hulk story, and I never looked back.  My mom was always supportive of my readin comics in part because I was enjoying the act of reading, and because it exposed me to so many themes and ideas well beyond the second grade classroom.  And while there is a place place for books like Spidey Super stories for younger readers, I never read them because once a person read and enjoys the challenge of the real characters, reading stories that were "age appropriate" to me at that time were boring and condescending and I hated them.  I learned about Nosre mythology in Thor and on occasion would correct inaccuracies in the teaching at school.  All of the reading led me to Creative Writing and other literature which lead to curiousity and eventually to earning my Doctorate.  It all comes from reading Comics, and I do to this day, and my mom knows that no matter what, every Wednesday night I can be found at my house with the week’s new books.  It is a love that will never end.

  30. @ohcaroline

     Harry Potter was a fad, and like all fads, once it passed people forgot about it.  Were some people turned on to reading?  Sure.  But most won’t read another book unless it becomes a pop-culture phenomenon.

  31. I tended to re-read, re-see things more when I was younger.  I re-read books that I liked for the simple fact the I enjoyed them and I knew I would enjoy them again.  It’s why I can tell you what happened in an X-Men comic by looking at it’s cover from the 1980’s but would have no clue about anything from the last 10 years.  There is a comfort in reading something over and over again.  With the amount of books out there it can be overwhelming to find something new that you like and you don’t necessarily have the confidence to ask anyone to point you in a direction.  So it becomes a hit or miss proposition.  As you get older and your tastes are a bit more formed, then you can always find that new thing so you don’t feel the need for that re-read. 

  32. Don’t mind reading, but sometimes I get a bit apathetic trudging thru long-winded comment sections.

  33. I’ve done a lot of rereading, and I also hear what Jason said about not re-reading when getting older.  I used to re-read comics all the time when I would first buy them, now I never read a new book more than once.  But a re-read is sometimes a good thing, especially in serial literature; if you’ve read ahead and you know where the story is going, re-reading earlier entries in the series can bring to light a lot of details that didn’t seem to be there before.  I got that with re-reading Game of Thrones and some 90’s X-Men books recently.  It’s also a nice comfort when you can’t find anything else to read, like revisiting an old friend you haven’t seen for a while and sharing some nice memories. 

  34. I’m also wondering if in younger generations the decline in branching out has anything to do with the decline in the children novella series. (I’m about to show my age) when I was geting to the age of reading, the biggest books were gooesbumps. They were a big deal because in some schools they were banned, and they had scary (for kids) pictures on the front of the book. My school didn’t ban them. So everyone, boy and girl was reading goosebumps. And the author was usually putting out a new book in the series at least every other month or so. There were a few seqauls, but the majority of the goosebumps books were standalone, and there were over 100 printed. At the same time when I was growing we had Animoprhs, Babysitter’s Club, so there were these giant novella series for us to read. During reading for enjoyment this is what everyone was reading. You could re-read the series I suppose, but when they’re over 100 it can feel daunting. As me and my classmates grew up and began to find that Goosebumps wasn’t scary and that it was only take about a half hour to burn thorugh any of the novellas we started to branch out, because we still had two more years of half hour reading for enjoyment in elementary school and then an hour of it in Jr. High. So we all had to find something. I branched off into Stephen King, who I heard was the "adult Goosebumps". From there I went to sci-fi, fantasy, horror and just kept going.

    The point of ALL that being that by the time my younger sister and her friends has entered elementary school and proper reading age (my sister is four years younger then me) the novella was a by gone product. Teachers no longer had book shelves filled with them. This was also the first year of Harry Potter. Reading for enjoyment was cut down to a fifteen minute routine and taken out of the Jr. High schools compleatly to "raise test scores". I’m now in my early 20’s and I read whenever I can, be it comics or books, I love reading. All my friends with two years of me love reading and often complain about the times when they can’t find a time in life to read. My sister and the group of kids around her age have read Twilight because "the boy was cute and they wanted to know what would happen to the cute boy" (I kid you not, that’s a quote I was given by one of her friends). When I ask if they have interest in reading anything I get a look like I have just spoken in tounges.

    I think they’re are alot of reasons people don’t read as much, all of them being very sad. But I’m not going to give up, I’m still pushing many a books on my sister and her friends, I got one of them to start "Carrie" so it’s a good step. 

  35. This article was, like, really great. So yeah, anyway.

  36. Here’s a test to see if your a reader or gamer:

    Play Gears of War 2 then read Gears of War 2 novel. We’ll see what gets more fun factor and we’ll see what is the better entertainment.

  37. Those damn losing all your teeth dreams are scary…

    Why can’t we laugh at sick people? It’s fun.

    I can’t comment about comicbooks but my dad was happy to cough up the dough for books even if they’re aren’t the most sophisticated pieces of literature…  Having two smaller sisters that like Barbies and prefer the original and over priced ones that come with one clothing and one barbie does that to fathers…He said that at least with me the money wasn’t wasted…

    My mom is a pushover (who d’you think bought all those overpriced barbies?).

    As for reading – I was somewhat of a bookworm when I was a kid, but now I lament the loss of the difficulty in reading – books that are like the Goosebumps serie – those interesting yet not so educational adventures, that I enjoy less and less. It takes me less time to read them and their simplicity no longer works as a benefit. Darren Shan books, Percy Jackson and the Olympians etc.

    I know there are a number of books with interesting and new ideas but I don’t know about the execution – mediocre book after mediocre book influence me and keep me away from reading, and a simple good ride type of book is what I need from time to time to fix that, and those are getting scarce – I no longer trust the Discworld series to supply that.

    I think I’ll need to rely more and more on comicbooks to supply that ride – that high that gets me through the mediocre books, but the money – she is not coming and I am lazy. 

    I have about seven books and TPs/GNs that I started reading but are too boring right now for me to finish them. It gets harder and harder to get interested in books because the ideas are no logner new, the executions are lower than other material etc. I guess parents need to be the gate keepers especially with books for kids since a lot of crap gets published in that category with stories that are suited for kids that can’t read yet.

    As for books – people read them, and will read them.

    @PudgyNinja – this inclusive statement is annoying. It’s like an argument about clothing I had with some woman – because some clothes are in fashion does not meen that everybody wears them because of that. Some people actually like them – reading seven books isn’t just because of a fad… People read 30+ Goosebumps not because it was hip and cool. Some people do, some don’t. People read Harry Potter because they enjoyed it…

    I’ve been in worse ‘meh’ periods about books, and I’m sure Stephen King and Isaac Asimov can provide good rides, but I have about 40 books that I actually bought and need to finish reading… and I’m busy and lazy and that’s not a good combination. As for the difficulty in reading – I get a bit of that when I read books in English since it is not a mother tounge and even though I don’t have problems reading, it seems that reading in English requires some extra processing and takes longer to accomplish, and I guess young adult books of 100 to 200 pages are the way to go for me – they have nice ideas and stories and aren’t too long to get sick and tired of, and if it’s from a library I can always return it and take something else, and the stories are smaller in scope.

  38. @chlop – It’s a hyperbole.  Don’t get all bent out of shape. 

  39. I’m not bent out of shape… I just said it’s annoying. Someone needs to invent a browser add-on that writes the tone of the post to the end of everything you post.

    *calm as usual*. I’m a calm misanthrope… we are not all alike you know… *the previous was a joke*

    *this user might be repeating the same thing, but it is not done due to anger management issues. *

  40. @chlop – I’m not going to stick a bunch of qualifiers in everything I say when the meaning is perfectly clear without them.

  41. Did I ask you to?

    As for it being perfectly clear – obviously it wasn’t to me. Saying most people won’t pick up another book and saying it was a fad and providing links to those claims, together with a toned down exaggeration doesn’t make it seem like a hyperbole to me – it makes this seem like a serious argument.

  42. Just gonna throw my two cents in about the Twilight/Harry Potter crowd. There is an epidemic of Twilight at my highschool.

    I crossed the line today, since we sorta made vows not to judge other geeky pursuits a while back. I’ve been asked to write a piece for the school paper on the Watchmen book as a companion piece to my buddy’s movie review.  I had my copy sitting with my bag and someone picked it up and said "There’s a book for Watchmen?"  I said, "Yeah, it’s great! You should really give it a read if you’re excited for the movie." As he cracked it open, the resident twilight fan said "That’s not a book, it’s ONLY a graphic novel." I quipped back with "Yeah, that’s why its considered to be one of the best pieces of literature in the 20th century by multiple publications. I think that makes it more of a book than Twilight."  Which, needless to say, pissed her off.

    Now that that story is out of the way, onto the mentality. The Twilight readers, only read twilight.  Period. I get them in my book store all the time. "I love the idea of teens with powers, what else do you have?" "X-men is a great place for that, Teen Titans too. Check out Buffy!" I also recommend other popular teen (non comic) books. They always leave empty handed.  I was reading an issue of Buffy season 8 in class. A girl wearing aTwilight shirt said "Wow, that just looks stupid." (that one kinda blew me away, since half of the characters in Twilight are just ripoffs of Buffy characters.)

    The book plauged my creative writing class. When the teacher would recommend other fantastic titles, they would appear on a couple kids desks over the next week or so, but most of the non-required reading were people re reading twilight for the third or fourth time, most of whom were just jumping on before the movie (and had already read them that much!)

    I’m trying not to hate, it’s just really frustrating as someone who enjoys pretty much every kind of entertainment, or at least tries to. I’ve read the first Twilight title, they’re not bad, they just seem like a weaker, repackaged version of Buffy, but the vamps sparkle… I won’t even get into that one! You just think they’d try something different! Maybe if they had a website like this for prose novels. I mean, I’ve tried all kinds of new stuff thanks to you guys.

  43. Nice article Mike.  As a teacher, literacy is an issue close to my heart.  It’s strange now, being a teacher in this digital age.  With the number of ways people read changing, it’s easy to understand why some students are resistant to simply cracking open a book, especially if their already literate role models simply read magazines and e-mail.  But we all know reading is important.  One of the great things about my lending library in my room is that it gives students another alternative to read.  My mantra has always been reading is reading, whether its a magazine, newspaper, comic, etc.  

    If there’s anything Harry Potter or Twilight has taught us, its that if the subject matter or writing is engaging kids will read it.  I just think there’s a disconnect with what is being written and what the readers want.

    As for me, when I was kid, my parents supported my comic book reading, but disapproved my spending every dime I made on them.  Even to this day, that disappointment continues. 🙂 

  44. @FACE~ I just scrolled back through the comments section and saw your post.  Major laughs!

  45. I’m kind of puzzled by some of the reactions in this thread.  Even supposing there are a lot of people out there who will only read two book series in their life, why is that provoking so much anger and resentment? 

  46. If I can say, working at a book store is one of the worse things to have happen to me. Especially since I came on the moment Deadly Hallows came out for HP. God that was a time I dont wanna remember again. It was like my 2nd day at Borders and I had to work the midnight shift for the release party….So many costumes….so many little kids crying….3 hours of working…

    Then you get Breaking Dawn to come out, which I didnt do the midnight shift for that thank god. Every other costumer has either Twilight, New Moon, or Breaking Dawn in their hands. It sickens me that this is all girls from 8-20 read. It’s still going strong and I have to answer 1,000,000 times a day that we are out of copies….Stephen King was right, she has no talent what so ever in writing. But in terms of marketing, Meyers is a genius.

    @Neb: Disappointed on the comics or in the teaching department? Like Homer: ‘What have I told you about helping others!? 🙂

  47. My parents never balked at anything I read as a kid. I read everything I could get my hands on, including–literally–the encyclopedia. What is amusing is how my they enjoy my adult comic reading habit. My dad especially likes having someone to call after he’s watched Hellboy or whichever comic book movie has just played on FX.

    I don’t really put credence into the the high literary stature of what kids read. I’ve read my whole life and lived the life of a literature student for years. And I would love to say that I read all of Anne of Green Gables or Dickens as a young one. But I spent many years and the vast majority of my allowance on the Babysitters Club series. It was no grand literary adventure, but they were fun and entertaining and got me into the lifelong habit of having a paperback on my person at all times. 

    I’m all for technology and I wouldn’t mind having a digital format, but I will always want real live paper books. I read with a pen in hand, so i can underline and mark up margins of prose books when I come across a passage that is poinigant, funny, or just really well constructed. And if I fall asleep with a book and it lands on my chest, I don’t mind. But I imagine a Kindle falling would hurt. 

  48. You had to work for 3 whole hours?

    Around a bunch of excited little kids?  You should sue someone.

  49. @At Midnigh to 3am no less….and they had costumes….and we had to play games….and we had to deal with tired and pissy parents….Oh god it was awful.

    At leasr Twilight’s crowd was just a mix of pre-teen goth girls with their parents. Much tolerable in my eyes.

  50. @ohcaroline. I think most of it comes from the idea that these types of book series don’t create new readers, just readers of those series. That could spell major trouble for the future of the book industry.

  51. @chlop – Oh, yeah.  I am serious about those comments.  I thought you were talking about when I said nobody reads anymore.  But those comments weren’t all inclusive, like you were complaining about.  The operative word is "most" not "all."

  52. @Anson  I think it’s a stretch to suggest that books selling millions of copies *hurts* the book industry. At the very least, it has publishers throwing money around looking for the next ‘Twilight’.  The publishing industry’s troubles are complicated, and spewing venom at 13 year old girls who like sparkly vampires makes about as much sense as the people in the 50s who thought reading comics caused juvenile delinquency.   

    @Megnolia  Baby-Sitters Club fans, represent!  

  53. @ohcaroline. I totally get that. I wasn’t trying to hate, I just know it comes out that way.  It’s just hard when I try and sell them other things that are pretty much the same product and I get a big blank stare.  The money coming in from those books is great. I just hope that there’s enough fad books to keep this going.

  54. Again working at a bookstore I tend to notice what gets sold often. Little kids seem to get the following books: Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Goosebumps, Narnia, Bone (which surprises me), Percy Jackson (Lighting Thief/Sea of Monsters), Kingcome Keepers, Warriors, and City of Ember.

    So I think there is enough variety in kids books and they dont seem to follow just one side of the literature world. I notice the same kids who buy Harry Potter comes back in later to buy the series I mentioned in the first paragraph.

  55. @Neb – 🙂

  56. @ohcaroline. For me the frustration comes from the lack of wanting to expand. Be it Twilight/Harry Potter, or if someone just reads only Batman and that’s it. It’s a bit frustrating to go "well there’s this too, if you like that you’ll like this." and they blank stare you. It seems more and more people are unwilling to get outside of their comfert zone, whatever that may be, and it can be frustrating, that’s all

  57. I read all my (non-comic) books on a device that can "show photographs, videos and, yes comic books", It’s a Palm TX and I’ve been reading three to five books a week on it for three years. 

  58. @PudgyNinja – okay. That’s a stupid thing to say – calling it a fad. I doubt most people read it to be cool – people read it because it was publicized and they wanted to know if it’s really that good, or they just picked it up without knowing about the publicity, or just read it because it was in some library and people recommended it. Some people might have read it to know what it is about so they can comment on the book, but I doube it was a fad.

    As to the statement that most people won’t pick up another book – that’s a stupid statement as well. People that already read books might have picked it up, and they’ll continue to read books, people that read seven long books will might read another thing by J.K. Rowling, they might read another thing in that genre, they might start reading books regardless of the genre etc. Some might not want to read something else, but saying"most" is really a dumb thing to say, and calling it a fad is really disrespectful to the people that read that book and enjoyed it.

    As for people not getting Twilight readers to read something else, it doesn’t have to be a similair thing. Google has a lot of recommendations for Twilight readers. If you still want something similair, it seems that The Vampire Diaries are recommended several times. 

  59. @chlop – Harry Potter was a fad.

    I don’t know where you got the idea that I think people picked it up to be cool.  People picked it up because it was a cultural zeitgiest.  

    You can call it "dumb" but the statistics back me up.  Hundreds of a millions of copies of HP sold.  Most of those people did not turn into regular readers.  Live with it.


  60. Point of fact – most of the people who bought The Sorceror’s Stone didn’t even stay readers long enough to buy the Deathly Hallows.

  61. "Point of fact"! I love it. Mr. Chairman, if I may have the floor…

    FACT!: Readers who were seven when the first book came out were seventeen when the last one came out. I would submit to you that not a lot of high school juniors want to be reading the same stuff they were into in second grade, just on principle. Especially when dragons and magic wands are involved. Are they reading other stuff instead? Maybe. Maybe not. Do they spend time on the web they weren’t spending when they were seven? Oh, that’s a big yes. As high school students, are they bombarded with reading in a way I would not have even been able to imagine when I was in high school? 10-4, good buddy. It’s a completely different world than it was in 1997.

  62. Calling it a fad means people picked it up because if was the hip thing to do. It implies that they bought it not because they wanted to without knowledge of the hype, or because they enjoyed the series, or because people recommended it – much like Watchmen nowadays.

    I didn’t say they started reading books regularly, but saying they never picked up another book is really stupid and saying people bought it because it was a fad is disrespecful to them. 

    And what statistics? Do those statistics include every book store in the world, every yard sale, every house with books, every second hand book store, every online store, every book exchange program, every library

    There’s a hugh difference between saying "I doubt people turned to regular readers" and "They never picked up another book and read it because it was a fad". 

  63. @Jimski – I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make.  If you think that those 100 million people are out there constantly buying books, why isn’t it showing up in the numbers?

  64. I would like to point out that the above post is probably the most useful comment ever provided by TheNextChampion.

  65. The numbers just don’t back it up.  Harry Potter sold 120 million.  Deathly Hallows sold 40 million.  Twilight, the current cult hit is at about 25 million.  No other book even comes close to Potter.  Most of the people who bought that book are not buying other books.

  66. Huh? Wha? I’d love to smoke what you’re smoking. Some people didn’t continue to read Harry Potter and didn’t buy a best selling book does not equal "They didn’t pick up another book".

    And what numbers? What do they include?  

  67. I’m just looking at best sellers since those are the only numbers i have access to.  Most don’t even get 10% of what Potter did.  If all of those people are out there, still buying books, what are they buying?

  68. That’s a huge leap to take. What about friends/relatives with books, book exchange programs, second hand stores, libraries, etc . Take that and multiply it by the entire world and it seems a best selling list can’t provide a "most people never picked up another book" claim. People don’t need to buy books to read them.

    I’m not stating that people turned into readers after reading Harry Potter – that would be a stupid and unverifiable thing to say, as much as saying most people that bought Harry Potter books never picked up another book. There are a lot of books all over the world, so I doubt a best selling list of books will give that information – a best selling book list that you didn’t specify about – what language and years does it take into account, and how many books? The top 10? 100? All of the books that qualify as best sellers?.

    Did they pick up the bible afterwards? Did they read a book targeted towards small kids? Did they read another J.K. Rowling book besides the Harry Potter series? Did they read a short stories collection? Did they read a graphic novel? Did they read a volume in an encyclopedia? Did they read books from the Gutenberg Project? Did they hear audio books? Did they  read magazines? They have nature magazines, science fiction magazines, fantasy magazines etc.

    How can you claim wholeheartedly that most of those people never  read even a single book afterwards? How many books are sold to libraries and schools? Each copy is read by tens to hundreds of people and even more. How many new books were sold worldwide? How many books were sold in second hand stores? How many books were sold in yard sales? How many of the books were "set free" and are now in book exchange programs where someone reads it and then the book is given to the next in line – those operate worldwide. How many people didn’t read Harry Potter but it was read to them? How many books after that were read to them? How many people that read Harry Potter that was published not a lot of time ago won’t pick up another book just yet but might start reading later in life? How many people that read Harry Potter switched to comic books? How many are reading from the Internet Archive? How many are reading through book "lending" services – again "freed" books that people put in trains with something that explains their status, so that people will read while going from point a to b? How many of those people despite being asked to leave the book in the train, take it home to finish reading it? How many of their kids see the book and read it or their parents read it to them? How many of those people give away their own books to such services? How many books about history and geography and science are read in school? How many children’s encyclopedias are sold worldwide? 

    I’d love to see how you calculate and reach the conclusion that most of the people  that read Harry Potter books never picked up a single book afterwards. How much of the above did you consider?

    To make it clear – I’m not angry, I’m just baffled. It seems you are over confident, which is okay except when you choose to claim that you know why someone chose to read a book, and that they won’t read another single book afterwards. I find it too arrogant to claim to know what millions of people worldwide are like.

  69. @josh: Well thank you….now I feel bad for the stuff I said in the other thread 🙁

    Is Twilight and Harry Potter a fad? Yes. But it’s a good type of fad.

    Just like how Watchmen is going to be a good fad. Right now that is selling like banana’s at my store and I see those same people buying Watchmen are going to the Graphic Novel section more.

    Again Harry Potter has made the kid’s section just double in terms of quanity in my store. A lot of variety with the books being sold and I always see the same kids come back every month or so to get more reading material. So it’s maddening to see the same books being sold every time at first. But then give it a couple of months and you’ll see even more books being sold to the same costumers who bought one series beforehand.

  70. Maybe, but calling it a fad brings up negative connotations – that people do it to be in the know or to be hip and cool, or that it’s a passing frenzy and that those people will move to the next fad.

    And don’t worry about that – rebel.

    Also writers that write for a lot of genres are good – Stine might enjoy his shtick but someone reading Artemis Fowl which is a nice book with lower quality sequels might check other things by the same writer and get to The Wish List or other things by that writer.

    It is annoying seeing dozens of copies of a new book  in a store and seeing only several copies of good titles. I will never forgive you for that…

  71. @chlop – I don’t have those associations with the word "fad" at all.  A fad is something that is very popular for a limited amount of time.  That’s all. 

    Second, I think you’re reading me way too literally.  When I say, for example, that most of them won’t read a book, I would think it obvious that this a supposition and exageration, not a literal fact.  I’m not omnicient.  It’s merely a way to express the belief that, generally speaking, Harry Potter didn’t change much as far as people’s reading habits.  But what we do know certainly indicates that the Harry Potter series did not have a significant impact on reading trends.  It’s an outlier, statistically, not an indication of a trend.  Honestly, it boggles the mind that I have to explain this.

  72. ‘ts okay. Thanks for explaining it. I’m still not sure about whether it changed reading habits or had a significant impact on reading trends, or not, but that’s something that requires more looking into. It seems the NEA study only looked at a small part of the USA population, and that book was sold worldwide in many languages, so more data is needed in my opinion. It’s too much cutting and pasting – different surveys are taken and treated as the same one.

    It’s hard to predict which  book will change someone’s reading habits – there are probably thousands of books that are responsible for that and aren’t necessarily best sellers. Also there are too many factors besides the books – time, income, etc.

  73. Well to go to different reading, is anyone reading anything good in the non-comic realm? I just picked up "The Shround of the Thwacker" by Chris Elliot and so far it’s really damn funny.