I have the great pleasure introducing today’s guest writer James Walker. He is a literary journalist and the editor of the literary graphic novel Dawn of the Unread. Here he writes about the fight against the decline of book reading.
The Fight Against The Decline Of Book Reading by James Walker
On the 12 July 2014 I and a few friends decided to organise a reading flashmob in Old Market Square, Nottingham. 400 odd people turned up armed with books and we joined together in a very silent protest. Our aim was to make reading a visible act, and to show our appreciation to the writers, publishers and bookshops who have brought us joy over the years.
Physical books are slowly starting to disappear from the high streets and it’s not just because of the Kindle. In February, independent bookshops dropped to below 1,000 for the first time. This is largely due to high rents as well as a drop in demand. Bookshops pay the same rates as other businesses yet it is simplistic to categorise them as ‘retail’. Firstly, they are never going to be as profitable as say a clothes shop and secondly, they have an educational function. If councils don’t change their attitude our town centres are going to be nothing but Poundstretchers, Tescos and American coffee shops.
Libraries, when they’re not being closed down altogether, are seeing opening times and staffing numbers reduced due to cuts. The old argument that other services (such as hospitals) are more important is simplistic and divisive. The UK was recently positioned 22 out of 24 industrialised nations for illiteracy. This is particularly worrying given that there is proven evidence that those who don’t read are less likely to vote, become home owners and lack general confidence. Cuts also mean that less books are stocked which in turn impacts on the livelihood of writers who are already pretty much at the bottom of the food chain.
These are just some of the issues that motivated the people in the picture to sit down alone together with their favourite books. Reading is also something that is able to unite every type of person, cutting across cultures, gender, ethnicity and age. Yet despite its ability to unite all communities and its role in developing us intellectually and emotionally, it is something which local government seems to treat with contempt. Now we’ve all sat down together quietly, perhaps it’s time we all started to shout for what we believe in…
James Walker is the editor of literary graphic novel Dawn of the Unread. The flashmob was organised as part of their campaign to raise the importance of reading. Their next public event is a game of zombie mastermind as part of the Nottingham Festival of Words (19 October, 3pm, Old Market Square, Nottingham) which will see four dead writers come back to answer questions about their literary lives www.dawnoftheunread.com