I grew up in a house where everybody read, a lot. Books were allowed at the dinner tables. (Watching TV was not.) At the same time, I grew up in a house where buying books was seen as frivolous and a complete waste of money. In my mother’s mind, you read a book and you were done and to spend money on something you could get for free at the library was, well, worse than pointless. It was wrong.
I had a shelf of books—birthday and Christmas gifts mostly. Horse books and these compendiums of stories, articles, jokes and projects that I don’t think exist anymore. Books were precious. I went through scads of them—at least seven a week at the library–and the threat of not having a book hangs over me to this very day. Something in my soul just went zing when I got an email from Frugal Panda called 17 Ways to Get Free Books. Some of them, like Project Gutenberg and BookCrossing were familiar to me. Others, like SF-Books, socialib, and PaperBackSwap were totally new.
If you’ve got too many books, if you want more books, or both, check out the info on Frugal Panda’s site.
Reading and Books
Darby Dixon, at Thumb Drives and Oven Clocks, posted a link to an article in the Sunday Herald about falling reading rates in Russia. Seems that when reading was a political act, or when your only alternative was Soviet TV and radio, lots and lots of red people read.
In 1991, the year the Soviet Union imploded, 48% of young Russians systematically consumed literature. By 2005 that figure had shrunk to just 28%.
And for the next generation, things can only get worse.
What is being called a systematic crisis even extends to the traditional bedtime story for children. In the 1970s, 80% of parents read aloud to their children. Today the figure is just 7%
Probably because it is easier to sit a kid in front of a TV than read to them. And while we all complain about kids spending too much time in front of the TV–they do! they do!–as a parent I can remember times when I wished my kid would spend more time in front of the TV. Darby’s post is called “Congratulations America! You’ve Won the Cold War. ” It does seem to me to say something about reading, consumerism, and entertainment. But what it says is not entirely clear. In the 1800’s, people bemoaned the rise of novels and predicted that reading them corrupted youth, particularly young women. Now we say that about video games, particularly with regards to young men. A weird kind of progress there. Is it bad that Russians have something better to do than read? Only if you believe that there is almost nothing better to do than read.