I read a study recently regarding Oprah’s lasting effect on books. Before Oprah shared her love of reading with the world, book sales were pretty much standing still. Why read when TV gives you visual stories to enjoy? Years ago, another study was done in the Netherlands showing how from 1955 to 1975 (which happens to be the years television sunk its roots into their households) reading dropped to just over three hours a week while TV viewing rose to ten hours. By 1995 reading had gone from occupying nearly 30% of their time to just 9%.
In my own household, we strictly limited television for our kids, and yes they balked at the time. But as adults my two are readers – my son an avid informational reader (like his mom) and my daughter a voracious reader of everything (she has to be the most well-read person I know). My two tell me now, “TV won’t be in my house when I have kids” or “TV is pointless, no one needs it in their house.” As children don’t come with guidebooks, a parent just never knows if their muddling-through choices will come back to haunt them. In this case we did OK. Whew.
There’s no doubt Oprah played a role in a new renaissance of the written word and she did so by using her bookclub as a challenge. We Americans love a good bandwagon and will lean toward anything with mass appeal. Throw a challenge in there and you’re in. Do it enough and you’ve created a habit. Though new studies show paper book sales are down, they counter that by saying ebook sales are booming. No one mentions the 33,000 free ebooks to be had through Project Gutenberg. People are reading those too but they’re not counted as sales. The motto of this ambitious project — to break down the bars of ignorance and illiteracy. If you’re unfamiliar with this resource, give it a look. www.gutenberg.org
I should explain here just in case you aren’t familiar with Johannes Gutenberg, he’s the guy who invented the moveable type printing press some time in the mid-1400’s. His goal at the time was to inexpensively put bibles in the hands of common people. Up until this inspired invention, books were painstakingly written out by hand and as such were too costly for most people to own. It was a short hop to go from bibles to everyday reading materials. The fact the wealthiest people owned them made books very appealing to those less fortunate in the same way people buy cheaper reproductions of things owned by wealthy people today. Can you imagine what cheap books did for the psyche of the common man? Books told you anything was possible. Including a better life.
Before the inexpensive books arrived, sharing them was common. A reader wouldn’t dream of damaging a rare book by bending a dog ear to mark the page. It didn’t take long before someone came up with the idea of a small piece of parchment as a placeholder. Voila the book mark was born. These too became fancy as they caught on. Ribbons, cords, feathers on cords, tabs on cords, you name it. If it was flat and could mark a page, it was used. An avid reader herself, Queen Elizabeth I even had bookmarks made for herself and those close to her. Of course this made them even more popular. I’m thinking Queen Elizabeth was that era’s Oprah. Queen of England – Queen of Talk, people emulate those they admire. Look what Queen Victoria managed – everything from fashion to Christmas trees to funerary practices.
So why am I going on about books and bookmarks? I discovered recently that a bookmark is an indispensable marketing tool for an author. It’s inexpensive advertising that has a good chance of being used and paid attention to. Ingenious really. When someone marks a passage or a page with it, they have to see it again the next time they read. Simple and effective. I’ve made one for myself to test the waters. Just where I’ll distribute them remains to be seen. My book is on Siren-Bookstrand and Amazon.com but those are virtual stores. The only tangible place it’s at right now is Barnes & Noble. We’ll see if they’ll let me leave a small stack there.
It’s not too shabby for an in house project, but I know I’ll tweak it a bit more before I have them printed.
Have a look ~