Friday, February 8, 2008

My Readers Are Dying

I'm going to assume that if you're reading this blog (anyone reading this blog?) that you're into crime fiction and that you know about DorothyL, the mystery Listserv. Anyway, they had a recent poll about the best crime fiction books in 2007. That's not what I'm interested in. What shocked me (sort of) was that the median age of the poll participant was 58 years old.

This should worry all of us. When I go to a mystery function, other than the kids of the person talking, the audience is OLD. I'm 51, and I'd say I'm probably on par with a lot of people. Forty is young in these venues. This demographic nightmare might account for why book sales are dropping across the board. The publishing industry isn't attracting new readers with the same commitment to the written page.

Having two teenagers, I will tell you how they spend their time. They go to a ton of movies. They text their friends endlessly. They listen to their ipods. More movies. My daughter I would classify as a reader, but she doesn't read like *I* read at her age. But then I didn't have movies specifically geared to ME, clamoring for my dollars and time. Nor did I have clothing stores specifically geared to ME, clamoring for my dollars. I went to Capwells and bought my clothes in the young teen section, which was right next to the "women's" section where my mother bought her clothes. Then the Summer of Love hit, and I'd take the bus to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley to buy my clothes. I didn't have Gap, Forever 21, H&M, Nordstrom, etc. , waging ad campaigns to the tune of millions of dollars to get my money. Just that bearded hippie who drove a VW van down to Mexico to buy $1.00 shirts and who then sold them for $25.00. Capitalism at work.

My son: ipod and gaming. He spends an enormous amount of time in front of a computer screen playing basketball and football, and when he isn't doing it with a mouse, he's doing it outside. He enjoys reading if we threaten to cut his legs off if he doesn't read a book within the next couple of days, but it's not a natural yen. And we have NEVER had an X-box OR a Gameboy in the house. He complains he's deprived, but given how much time he spends as it is on generic computer games, I can't feel too sorry for him.

In short, my kids are probably a normal demographic (except for depriving son of a Gameboy), and their time (and money) is eaten up with all these possibilities, and reading is NOT at the top of their list.

As my reading population ages and then dies (let's be realistic), who is going to buy my books?


Elizabeth said...

It's so weird, isn't it? I remember reading my first Agatha Christie at age 14 and getting that deep sense of reader joy that is like no other feeling in the world - comfort and excitement at the same time, knowing you can sign your consciousness over to a worthy captain for a time. It's a feeling that I crave always. What gives our kids that feeling? Do they even have it or want it? I don't know.

caralee said...

I am still a big fanatic on murder mysteries. Some of the newer authors such as Louise Penny and Claire M. Johnson make the genre even more enjoyable and fresher for me.

Claire, when, When, WHEN are you going to come out with your 2nd Mary Ryan novel? I've been awaiting its arrival for the past 3 years!

Keep up the good work!