I guess I thought book discussion clubs had been around since, well, stone tablets.
Who could resist talking about what you've just read to a person or two of like mind?
Not so, I learned, thanks to an article in JSTOR Daily online.
In fact, the first book discussion clubs were centered in coffee houses or the actual homes of authors. Books were passed around and shared because they were very expensive in the 1700s and 1800s.
I found this reference to the earliest of what today we think of as book clubs: According to Brad Hooper ("The Mother of All Book Clubs," Booklist, Sept. 15, 2001) perhaps the earliest community book discussion club like those meeting in today's living rooms was founded in 1877, by the ladies in the small Corn-Belt town of Mattoon, Illinois (the club still meets). Beaufort, SC was not far behind: Mary Elizabeth Waterhouse founded the Clover Club literary society in 1891.
The rise of cheaper books has likewise given rise in the number of book clubs, especially, for some reason, since 1989.
JSTOR quotes The New York Times as estimating book club membership at 5 million. A large number of them, it seems, are made up for and by women.
In fact, a 2014 surbey found that among American women who read at least one book a month, 56 percent were in book clubs.
I don't know why.
My wife reads every day, sometimes for hours at a time.
She uses only a Kindle, and not even the latest version.
She loves it, and takes it everywhere with her.
I read books, old-timey paper books. I have my own Kindle, but I just can't seem to get into the experience. I certainly would not read a newspaper online -- too hard.
And the idea of reading a book on my cell phone is just completely alien to me.
Yet, that's where the reading world is heading, according to Nielsen.
The percentage of e-book buyers who read primarily on tablets was 41 percent in the first quarter of this year, up from 30 percent in 2012.
But, a poll last December by Nielsen showed that 54 percent of e-book buyers were using their phones to read books.
Right now, they are not using phones exclusively, however. Instead, they read here and there with phone useage rising.
It's something I doubt I will ever do.
My wish list for this library is not modest.
Just how immodest I learned last week when I read about the success the Windsor, Canada, library is having with printing up books.
That's right: The library has a way to print books.
It's called an Espresso machine.
So far, the library has produced 10,700 books in three years using the Espresso. So far this year, demand is way up -- 4,000 books printed so far.
Ninety-eight percent of those works are self-published.
What a dream: Have a way for patrons who have written books to have them published without hassle.
Oh ... but a pipe dream.
The Espresso costs $85,00!
Have school libraries changed along with other aspects of education?
I would certainly imagine that's the case. I have been in several public school libraries in the four years since I moved to Wimberley, and in the newer schools I see that an attempt has been made to provide plenty of materials, computers, etc. I've certainly not made a study of the situation.
But, as I think about the start of school, I also think about whether schools are going to continue to stress the importance of reading to gain knowledge, to widen one's perspective and to be entertained.
You might wonder that also. If so, here are some questions that you might want to ask your school principal as you get the kids back into the swing of things:
Theh come from the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association:
Harper Lee's novel "Go Set a Watchman" didn't sit well with Peter Makin.
Peter is owner of an independent bookstore in Traverse City, Mich., and he recently broke with the galloping herd of critics and commentators over the value of this book that is supposed to be related in some semi-independent way to Lee's landmark book "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Peter told people who bought "Watchman" that he would refund their money.
According to Infodocket, he posted this comment at his website: "It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as 'Harper Lee's New Novel.' This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic ... We therefore encourage you to view 'Go Set a Watchman' with intellectual curiosity and careful consideration; a rough beginning for a classic, but only that."
I applaud Peter Makin for his courage.
But, I wonder if he might also take a look at a whole passel of books that are being churned out by publishers that are nothing more than hooey and hockum. For example, I just put aside two books that were highly touted, both works of nonfiction. One was about a guy who trained elephants during WWII in Burma. The other was about the development of character. The former was a strange foray into spiritual kinsmanship between animals and humans, something I consider ridiculous. The latter was just a republication and regurgitation of something the author had already written in his newspaper columns. Nothing new there.
Would Peter refund my money on those two items?
Peter doesn't have to; I checked him out of the library.
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