ABSTRACT

Just as the prospects for books look limited without authors, the same applies without readers. Paul Auster says, ‘If you write a story or a poem, you hope there will be a reader,’1 although of course there are a good many titles read by very few people. There is a received wisdom that reading is good in itself, and offers personal and social benefits beyond those for the economy of having an educated and literate population. If studies show that readership of books is in decline, does this matter? What is at stake here? Are there other ways of learning and developing our intelligence, and how can we expect books to compete with the range of other media which compete for our attention? Surveys suggest a fall in reading over time, in many countries, and this chapter

will examine the evidence and the reasons put forward. These include the loss of time to read, in an often frenetic world of competing demands, and declining interest amongst newer generations. Is the reading of books being replaced by other forms of reading, for example blogs and websites? The science of reading tells us what is happening inside our brains, and suggests that the pace of reading is faster with some digital devices.