Printed books remain the gold standard, at least according to a recent article (fall of 2016) in The New York Times. Sixty-five percent of the more than 1,500 people surveyed said they’d read a printed book in the past twelve months. This repeats the number from the original survey in 2012. Books read on a cell phone increased, but the overall e-book numbers have remained steady at around 28 percent. This means that three percent of those interviewed must have read a book in both a print and digital format.
Surveys must be viewed as a guide and nothing more. A myriad of variables can skew the numbers. I’d like to believe, however, this data reinforces my contention that people still enjoying holding a physical book. This applies to all demographics in which reading remains a normal activity.
I did learn one thing when I conducted a reading program for seniors in the late ’90s, and it’s that old folks (a category that now includes me) don’t like heavy books. Please don’t laugh at this and shrug it aside as poppycock. My little group loved TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST, THE CALL OF THE WILD, CAPTAIN’S COURAGEOUS, and O PIONEERS! However, forget AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY or CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.
To a person, each reader complained about the weight of the latter two books. Especially if they read these novels in bed. As an aside to this, I also discovered that collectively the very elderly do not enjoy stories with harsh themes or unhappy endings. Books such at THE QUIET AMERICAN or THE LIGHT THAT FAILED (the latter one of my all-time favorite novels) received dismal reviews from my reading group.
I can appreciate that in the twilight of one’s life it’s more comfortable to read about pleasant rather than unpleasant topics. So the significance of what I’m saying can’t be dismissed even though the remarks themselves are inherently dismissive. I’m getting on in age myself, so I’m hardly saying that one size fits all. But for anyone planning on working with the elderly on a reading program, my experiences might prove worth remembering.