Saturday, June 02, 2007

The U.S. Population is Functionally Illiterate

As I discussed recently in the Ray Bradbury post, and the discussion about the CATO expert believing we as voters are too ignorant to vote intelligently, I found something while searching on google that is dismaying to those of us who are politically and intellectually engaged.
1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.

80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.

70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.

There is also this study that reinforces the other research.
So how many books do you actually need to sell to make it onto, say, the Times list? There is no defined threshold, but according to the Stanford study, one book made the hardcover fiction list selling only 2,108 copies a week; more typically, the median weekly sales figure in the study was 18,717. And most books can't keep even these modest sale rates up for long: Sales generally peak during a book's second week on the list and then steadily decline. Over a period of six months, the median best seller in the Stanford study averaged weekly sales of just over 3,600 copies.

When people wonder why the populace can be so convinced that Saddam personally was behind 9/11, this might be helpful in keeping in mind. Although we know what words are, our population is functionally illiterate since we don't read books, or newspapers anymore.

Those 70% of us who haven't been in a bookstore in the past five years can easily be duped into believing things through propaganda. If you don't make a habit of acquiring information, learning the skill, and it is a skill, of separating the wheat from the chaff, you can be easily misled.

Let us also remember that the numbers are bleaker than they look. How many of the people who buy books only buy romance novels for example, and nothing else? Our government doesn't have to censor information for us, if we do it for them.