Patricia S. Schroeder, former congresswoman and president of AAP, is hopeful that initiatives like the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read campaign, which promotes literacy through communitywide book clubs, and the emergence of book groups among individuals, will keep Americans reading for pleasure, regardless of whether they do it in print or digital format. “We’ve been very excited about the NEA’s Big Read, where they’re pushing reading across the country. It’s really helping people focus on reading,” says Schroeder.
In addition, the AAP’s Get Caught Reading campaign, which Schroeder created nearly a decade ago, continues to encourage literacy by featuring celebrity spokespeople including Alicia Keys, Drew Carey, Diane Sawyer, Derek Jeter and dozens of others. Schroeder says “the program is still vibrant,” and reports that the AAP is currently developing a spin-off campaign, Get Caught Listening, which will focus on audiobooks.
While consumers now have wider access to entertainment than ever before, the intrinsic value of books is still appreciated. Ursula K. Le Guin’s February Harper’s Magazine article, “Staying Awake: Notes on the Alleged Decline of Reading,” points out, “The book itself … is a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye and a human mind.”
Johnny Temple, publisher of Brooklyn- based Akashic Books, an independent publisher producing roughly 25 titles per year, recalls the reason he entered the publishing world in the first place: the beauty of books. “The book form has been around for so many hundreds of years, and [remains] basically unchanged,” he says. “Books are so special and singular and beautiful, so I don’t think it’ll ever be obsolete, but I do believe that the book as a form will shrink down.”