I was pleased to see this article by Lisa Jardine on the BBC website today.
Lisa, who incidentally is a neighbour of mine, living in the same Bloomsbury mansion block, hits the nail on the head.
It’s the content – what the book is about, what it says, how it says it and how the reader reacts – rather than its cover and binding which really matter.
It was interesting to see that Lisa is reading Tony Blair’s much vaunted biography A Journey in e-book form. I have bought the hardback and am about to start my own particular journey through its 690 pages. Faced with the prospect of carrying it to St Pancras International and then on the Eurostar, then from Brussels Midi station to the European Parliament and finally back to my flat in Brussels, I am seriously beginning to wish I had bought something which would allow me to read it electronically. May be this will be the incentive I need.
The huge sales of Blair’s biog is just the latest in a line of best-selling books which truly demonstrate that reading is not in decline. Lisa Jardine mentions the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books and the way Oprah Winfrey built up her book club. I would perhaps add Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson and Labour Party supporter Ken Follett as two further authors who prove the art of reading is still very much alive and well.
However, I have to concede that the public library is not what it was. Nevertheless, libraries still provide a valuable resource for adults, and particularly children, to explore the written word and become the readers of the future.
As the Coalition Government seeks to make massive cuts in public spending, let’s hope there are those in their midst who understand the importance of the arts in general and reading in particular. The cultural industries generate considerable wealth for the UK. They should be supported and encouraged.