Read a short essay by Adrian Hon about decline in reading. It talks about how people are reading less these days and what would get them to read more. I don’t know if people are reading less overall but I tend to agree that in this age of microblogs, twits and SMS, reading a long winding novel or even an essay is rare.
He posits that with the increase in popularity of kindle and other ebook readers, we will see increase in ebook piracy and that would lead to people reading more books. I think anything that transforms from atoms to bits will eventually get pirated. So no doubt that ebooks will get pirated more often but I don’t know if an easy access to books will make people read more. Aren’t libraries already offering good literature for free? That still doesn’t seem to encourage people to read.
As for getting people to read, I think the answer is YouTube. Yes the same video medium that Adrian despises as inferior to books. Let me explain. In Microsoft we frequently have authors visit and talk to us about their latest books. These hour long talks are then archived and are available online for viewing later. Almost all of the books that I have read in the past year or so have been by the authors whose talks I listened to online. Imagine if Amazon put on its pages a 5-10 minute video of the author outlining key ideas of the book. I’d definitely view that as opposed to reading through the first chapter or looking at the table of contents. A video might be inferior but it is great at grabbing attention. It also solves the problem of barrier of entry that Adrian is referring to. One can quickly decide after watching a 5 minute video whether he/she wants to read more about the topic or not. So I think something like that is more likely to get people reading that piracy or Kindle.