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Black People Don't Read

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I admit I deliberately used a controversial title to see if more people would be enticed to read this post.  Needless to say, as the guy running this website, I believe there are significant number of Black people who do read--at least enough to make this site viable as a business, albeit a challenging one.

 

I also believe the issue is more of an American cultural one, and one of class, rather than "race." 

 

That said, I do believe the reading rates of Black people are on the decline.  If this continues, there may come a time, in the life time of the average person reading this, where one can legitimately say, Black people don't read." 

 

Below is another piece of evidence.  It shows the numbers of queries on the terms "African American Books" and "African American Literature"  As you can see, the people searching on these terms have been on a steady decline for the past decade.  The peaks, each year, are in February--no surprise there.  An interactive version of the graph is available on a page where I have started an article on the subject.

 

Now of course one can not say that because there are fewer searches on the terms described that there are fewer Black folks are reading.  Nor can one conclude that Black readership is down since the number of Black owned bookstores have declined, substantially, during the same period shown on the graph.  Even the reduction and weakening of Black book sites does not mean Black folk are reading less.

 

And just because books are barely covered, let alone reviewed, in the Black press and magazines, does not mean Black folks are not interested in reading... right?

 

Hummm, maybe I'm focusing on the negative.  Lets look at the positive.  Black folks rule the Twittershere better than 25% of all users (twice our percentage of the population).  You have to read to use Twitter.  Many people tell me, "At least they are reading something."

 

You also have texting, Black people spend a tremendous amount of time on "smart" phones texting, so much so that corporation are now retooling websites to accommodate mobile user--even homeless people have cell phones.  Of course a smart phone with the twitter app is a perfect substitute for a novel. 

 

 

googletrends.jpg

 

 

 

This post was promoted by an earlier post about the increase in the number of http://aalbc.com/tc/index.php?/topic/2433-indie-bookstores-growing-but-not-in-the-black-community/. 

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Here is one reaction from Facebook

 

The broader issue , is also attributed to decline in the Black American Population, the INCREASE of other Black Nationalism of Caribbean and Latino ethnicities. The growing Number of Black Americans who are not exclusively searching for Black only reading materials. Further, the decline in other demographics who wish to read genre outside of their own comfort level. While , yes, there is a decline in people reading books, as books is a form of delivering information, communication, and entertainment. As there has been a decline in theatre, and decline actually in Movie attendance. The challenge comes into cross promoting the books to a larger audience so that there is an appeal as a story that appeals to many people across many different demographics. In addition, to expand the story to different delivery formats, that the book will be posed for a TED topic and or a cable show or theatre or Netflix or TVONE....

 

My Response

 

[Name of person], two quick questions; (1) Did you follow the link? (if not, you should); (2) Did you reply via a mobile device?

Admittedly it is a complex issue. But the Black population is growing. Indeed it is growing at a faster rate than the overall population: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-06.pdf True Black people read (MUST READ) outside their race. But I'm talking about read in general.

Also my comment was prompted by a recent Washington Post article (linked here: http://aalbc.com/tc/index.php...) talking about the increase in the number of independent book stores. The sentiment is that demand for books in increasing imply people are reading more. My data in Black owned independent bookstores shows a dramatic reduction in the number of stores over the past decade.

Finally, the NEA issued a "Grave" warming concerning the decreased reading rates of African Americans: http://aalbc.com/reviews/reading-rates-decline.html

Given all of this information, one has to ask why is there not a hue and cry from Black folks? Perhaps it is because we don't read?

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Well the scandalous content wins

 

-- 111 readers 3 days 7 hours

 

Black People Don't Read -- 112 readers 1 day 3 hours

 

The "looking for a book post" actually had an additional promotion from the last eNewsletter that was mailed.  The "looking for a book post" one of the most frequently clicked links.  That tells me the 15K newsletter subscribers are more sophisticated than the general population.  They don't skew to scandal--they are looking for good books. 

 

The number of readers would have been much higher in the past and there would have been some participation in this conversation; rather than me simply writing for lurkers and transient visitors.

 

This, of course, is why we see so much scandalous content across the web, so much so, it is crowding everything else out.

 

It will be an interesting to see what changes we see in the near future... 

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I realize that this is the age of the Internt, but you might take into consideration that there is a community of black readers who fly under the radar and don't create a blip in statistics because they are not computer oriented.   These are a silent rank of people who are usually older and often eccentric but who are rabid readers, not only of books but news papers and periodicals.  You'll find them in the libraries that they frequent with a great deal of regularlity.  They are usually very intelligent and well informed and sometimes even indigent. Unfortunately, they have little impact on society.  But they are there.  I see them. Turning pages and absorbing knowledge.... 

 

Old, eccentric person that I am, I, myself, don't always google book topics.  I read newspaper literary reviews and see titles on the best selliing lists posted at libraries and... I get on the check-out list. 

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Of course Cynique I know many people like the ones you describe myself.

 

This is one reason when I help the media imply the everyone is on Facebook for example that rings hollow to me because many of my friends are not on social media at all and those that are do very little on.

 

So I agree with your assessment of Black readers like yourself.  But I'm afraid you all are dying off and are not being replaced. 

 

Cynique when I was younger it was not uncommon to see a Black man reading a newspaper on the train.  Now they are more likely to be playing Candy Crush or listening to music with those ubiquitous white ear buds). 

 

It does appear that Black people, collectively, are reading less than even 10 years ago.  I have not seen a single indicator to suggest otherwise. 

 

If someone has some good news I'd be glad to hear and share it. 

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