You should read Karen Dionne’s great 2/11/09 post, “On Buying Books.” Karen cites a provocative finding from a survey by the Department of Canadian Heritage that heavy readers buy proportionately the fewest books. [ http://tinyurl.com/ck7ov8 ]
Are you surprised that the people who love to read most buy the fewest books? Maybe they couldn’t possibly support their strong addiction without getting creative. Maybe they’ve been forced to develop alternative supplies. They go to libraries and used book stores. They organize book swap programs with neighbors.
This got me thinking about my own book buying behavior. Karen says she started buying books after she started writing them. Me too. I started buying more books when: my first book was published and I suddenly had empathy for authors everywhere; and when my husband started working for a publishing company and I understood what a difficult business it is. I still get a lot of books from the library. I work there, so please don’t be mad. Most of the books I read for pleasure come from the library, while most of the books I buy are either reference books or for gifts.
As an author, I specialize in consumable books. My husband and I write guided, fill-in-the-blank, answer-this, put-your-doodle-here journals. Hopefully you want to own them so you can write in them and make them your own. Our biggest competition is not the library, but probably the internet. I'm sorry, but a website or blog just does not have the same tactile satisfaction or make a very good keepsake. At least I hope not...
Writing consumable books was not a strategic decision. We just really like helping people tell their stories. Not everyone can make something of a blank page. Sometimes a prompt, a fill-in-the-blank or put-your-doodle here request is just what you need to get the pen going. Our journals are templates for people to write their autobiographies or tell their significant other all the ways they appreciate them. Our newest one – Picture of Me: Who I Am in 221 Questions - helps people describe who they are and what their life is like right now.
I wish all you Red Room authors magnificent book sales, whatever your specialty. Like Karen, I was heartened by the 2008 Random House survey finding that 28 percent of Americans purchase between 11 and 20 books every year. Not bad. Let’s hope this down economy actually helps the book industry. It’s a whole lot cheaper to visit Paris in a book than in person!
Causes Kate Marshall Supports
Project Second Chance, an adult literacy program run by the Contra Costa County Library system in California.