Saturday, February 17, 2007

But Who's Counting?

So how many books does the average reader finish in a year? That's a question that I see on many book blogs and over at the wonderful Library Thing website all the time. In my own case, I've found that my aversion to today's television programming has resulted in a steady increase in the number of books that I read each year. In fact, because my television viewing has averaged less than one hour a week for the last three or four years, I have been reading 80-100 books a year. That's at least 40 more books per year than I read when I was an All-American couch potato with a remote control in his right hand.

Kurt Hackemer, a University of South Dakota history teacher, has noticed the same effect on his entire family since he moved them to a small South Dakota town and didn't bother to connect the family television set.
Since moving to rural Vermillion without cable TV, Kurt Hackemer says he and his family read more.

It's not like they banned television from their household - they just haven't gotten around to hooking it back up yet. But it's been more than a year now.

"During the first week, our kids - Anna, 9 and Will, 5 - were thinking that this is just awful, terrible, but then they forgot about it," says Hackemer, a University of South Dakota history teacher.

Hackemer read about 10 books during the Christmas break, but says he reads a lot with or without TV.
"Right now, the crazy reader in our family is my daughter," Hackemer says. "That kid reads four or five books at a time, all piled on her nightstand next to her bed, with bookmarks in all of them. She'll walk in her room, pick one, read it, and the next night be into a different one."

Hackemer is not the only person up in South Dakota who has made the connection between increased reading and lack of interest in television's offerings.
Tim Gebhart estimates that he reads 50 to 70 a year, in a broad range of topics.

"I don't watch television very much," says Gebhart, a Sioux Falls lawyer. "I probably have read that much for as long as I've lived."

..."Years ago on a family trip to San Francisco, I told the kids we could start with a Giants game, or go to Golden Gate Park, or China Town, or I know of this really good bookstore," he says. "They said 'Let's go to the bookstore!' So that's the first place they ever went in San Francisco."

I don't know if the quality of television programming has really declined in the last few years or if my perception of what is being offered is what has changed. But whichever it is, it is nice to rediscover that good books are always there to pick up the slack.


  1. For me, it's not the TV, it's the computer. I watch the same amount of TV as I always have, but my computer time has increased drastically, causing my reading time to decrease. I keep finding new and interesting things online (Library Thing being one of them) and I've just recently realized the affect it's having. It's time to cut back... I just have to figure out how.

  2. I have a similar problem. That was the main reason that I shut down my old political blog. It was taking over my life, it seemed. I'm limiting my online time to certain hours of the day but the main change I've made is to simply cut down on the "surfing" part of my online experience. I have a good feel now for what sites are meaningful to me and I depend on others to alert me to anything good that I might be missing.

    Even Library Thing, now that I have my books all in the system, is not taking up all that much time. But that is such a great site that I would make time for it...I can't believe that someone finally thought of it. LOL

  3. I'm sure once I get all my books catalogued on Library Thing, that'll make a big difference. I need to let go of the silly places, like MySpace or Facebook, but it sadly seems to be the only way to communicate with friends these days. I'm going to make a strong effort to spend less time online though. I gotta say, though, you're not helping anything with these blogs. ;-)

  4. Maybe that's what makes a difference for me. I find MySpace to be pretty much a waste of time unless you're a musician and I've never even been to Facebook. I prefer my communication with friends to be a bit more private than that and I don't like the idea that there are traces left behind for "hacker types" to get their hands on if they want to. I've heard some horror stories about people being rejected for job interviews because the HR department found something strange about them on MySpace. People tend to forget just how public those sites can be...same for blogs. Just look at the stink that the two bloggers caused for John Edwards when he hired them to work on his campaign without having checked out their blogs first. (Gotta admit that I got a good laugh over that one because those two "ladies" are nuts.)