SHOOTING THE BREEZE
MORE THAN I CAN READ
By Eric C. Forbes
DID YOU KNOW that a book is published every 40 seconds? This includes over 10,000 new novels a year, with almost 100,000 more on publishers’ backlists. The number of books in the world is growing at five times the rate of the human population! Even if you read the whole day you’d need 163 lifetimes to get through all the books currently on amazon.com, according to one estimate.
A little trivia here. I have no idea how reliable these figures are, but according to some sources, around 450,000 English-language books were published in 2006. And around 200,000 titles were published a year in Britain alone. Any large British publisher will receive more than 2,000 unsolicited manuscripts in a year. The average sale of a hardback book by a first-time writer is 400 copies. These are just some of the realities of the publishing business. Yes, like I have reiterated countless times, not everyone sell as many copies as Dan Brown, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jackie Collins, Jeffrey Archer, Stephen King or J.K. Rowling.
The esteemable Robert McCrum of the Observer says that we now live in a golden age of reading where never before have so many books been so readily available. But more than ever, we are tortured by choice, he says.
We tend to buy more books than we can read. And the strange thing is, the more we read, the more we want to buy. It’s a vicious circle. Reading has become an addiction, a hard habit to break. I have a room full of books and lots more in boxes. My bedside table is already overly crowded. It is a fact that it is impossible to read all the books published. And there are so many good books coming out every month. It is impossible to read all the books we want to read. Each and every one of us will have to look for our very own reading journeys. I guess that’s what reading is all about.
Taste, of course, is a very personal matter, and not always explicable. The quality you appreciate might be abhored by another.
And let’s not forget what Michael Dirda of the Washington Post said about books: “Reading a lot of books isn’t important. Thinking about what you’ve read is.”
As Gabriel Zaid put it in So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance (2003): “What does it matter how cultivated and up-to-date we are, or how many thousands of books we’ve read? What matters is how we feel, how we see, what we do after reading; whether the street and the clouds and the existence of others mean anything to us; whether reading makes us, physically, more alive.”
What’s your reading journey like?