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It's Not Just A Rumor - - Young People Aren't Reading

Saw this interview with Jean Twenge on Real Time talking about the decline of young readers. Yup, young people aren't reading mostly because of social media. Bad? Sad? Predictable?

Do you ever get the creepy feeling that the world is a lot different than you were when you were a kid? It's something we used to laugh about when we were kids in the 80s-90s....that thing when old people say 'back in my day....' and you feel bad for them because they can't get with the times. Remember feeling like that as a young person?

Well now as a woman in my late 30s, I am getting that creepy feeling more and more, like wtf is happening with our young people? I thought maybe I was just being a grumpy middle-aged person. After all, once a woman hits her 30s it's over for her since society loves naive 20-somethings who are willing to buy overpriced wrinkle cream that doesn't have to work because they don't have wrinkles. Or get facial fillers worth a few hundred a pop to once again get rid of nonexistent wrinkles and 'look younger' (HINT: it makes them look older) but I digress.... so anyway I get this feeling that no one must be reading anymore because books are terrible and I wonder who the hell are these written for!? So is reading for enjoyment a thing of the past? Is it no longer possible? Is that why the state of writing and publishing is a depressing nightmare filled with feelings of misery and hopelessness from which there seems to be no escape?

Yeah, kinda. Reading for pure pleasure has plummeted. It's been going down for decades and among the Gen-Z crowd and the Polars (the generation after Z) it's pretty much non-existent.

That is depressing. Reading now seems to be more of a novelty or something someone does like going to the gym or learning to bake bread, rather than something someone enjoys doing privately in their downtime. It's something people list as a personality-building trait or a job 'I read...' and people ask questions like 'So Cindy how is the reading going?' as if they started a new diet. So. Weird.

However, don't despair booklovers... or maybe do, it depends on how you look at this next piece of information: The rise of BookTok: meet the teen influencers pushing books up the charts (I know it's from The Guardian but whatever...) there are countless articles from the last few years suggesting that social media (where kids spend around 5 hours a day) is inspiring them to read more. This should be a good thing... right? Uh.... maybe in some ways, after all, reading is reading and reading is sexy right? Sure, okay.

But publishing is a business and let's be honest, teens aren't known for their high standards or great tastes. So if they are deciding the publishing trends... And if a book is being pushed online and becomes a viral sensation big publishers notice. Then suddenly the market for shitty urban paranormal romance novels takes off like a bat out of Hell!

What are the big and small publishers who are trying to make a buck in a dying industry going to do? Publish similar books that cater to a small group or they will just republish dumb 'classics' from writers like Jane Austen or rip-offs and retelling of dumb classics from writers like Jane Austen (yeah it's a thing it's seriously happening. Why is this happening?!?! haven't high schoolers suffered enough through the original? damn you BookTokers for loving someone as white bread at Jane Austen)

So let's recap: No one reads for fun anymore. BookTok is supposedly changing that but what if these influences have bad taste? (they do) So what does that mean for us old-school readers who want a good book that doesn't involve retellings or identity politics? Basically that we are screwed and need to read old books.

As a tiny publisher and avid lovers of the written word, both my partner and I browse through hundreds of samples from large presses to indie authors looking to get published and it's safe to say it's 99% bad. The stuff that we end up loving and reading for fun is usually from the 1960s-1980s. Even as stuff started getting really padded out in the 1990s, it was possible to find some great books.

Now when we feel like punishing ourselves we go to the local small and big bookstores (I kid you not I went to retrieve this link to Dymocks and their front page features who, Jane Fucking Austen! WTF Dymocks find another writer to masturbate to. Oh and below the Austen merch was Taylor Swift crap and then Pride propaganda. Ugh! Bookstores are so depressing these days.) and everything sucks. The writing is bland, flat, and uninspiring or it's purple and flowery and written like a moody teenager trying to imitate Clive Barker. But most of the time it's just downright bad. And not just the writing but the editing is bad and I can't believe it's from a big press.

For example, the horrible dumpster fire Motherthing from Ainslie Hogarth. The cover is good hence why I thought I'd give it a shot. But left the review: 'This book was so bad I couldn't get through the first chapter. I tried to return it to Amazon they said we'll give you your money back but please keep the book. I feel Amazon processes a lot of returns for this book.'⭐

And BJ's review "Just unbearable on every level. The sad attempts at humour fall flat. The prose is so relentlessly whimsical it makes you want to puke. At times it spirals into word salad (for example: "...aware that if they're lucky, in a little while they'll lose consciousness, sink, spread, off-gas like great snoring molds, beyond reproach."). There are also significant errors in the text (e.g. missing quotations on the first few pages) which makes one surprised this book was published by a division of Penguin. It seems there's very little difference in quality between the big presses and the indie ones these days."⭐

This is a book that was praised to the high heavens on NetGalley, BookTok, down to the local bookstore. But anyone who actually likes books has read a lot of books, all can't believe it. Here's a review I really like that hits all the notes about why this book should not have been published. But the book's marketing team has convinced readers that it's not just good, it's great! I feel this is because people don't read, so when they do they don't know what to pick, they believe the hype and figure that everyone loves This Book so they love it too!

Oh, then there's the idea that low-star reviews are somehow bad👎 reviews or as people like to put it 'negative'😠 Many readers have said in various social media posts that if they don't like a book they will either A) try to say something nice about it anyway because apparently 'art is subjective' (that's bullshit) or B) they just won't post anything at all to avoid being 'negative'

So mix up social media influencers who don't read (just started reading, don't read widely, or just don't know what the hell they are talking about) telling people what to read and combine that with low-star review-shy readers and you get BAD books that have shining reviews and people convincing themselves its good.

So is it a bad thing young people are reading less? Yes. Maybe. Because when they do read, they seem to be reading shit. They are also missing out on really good stuff. They are ruining the market for people who actually love to read.

Maybe I'm just getting old and I'm grumpy. Maybe it's because these BookTokers and influences look like the kids who used to make fun of me for reading in school and called me a weirdo. Now they are turning it into a trend that is playing a part in ruining the publishing industry since publishers are slaves to money. Not only that but people read badly written books and decide to write their own then they imitate the style, write more bad books, and the downward spiral continues.

teen on smartphone young people aren't reading


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