Thursday, March 31, 2016

Unfinished Literature

"Some crazy stats that have come out of Kobo that track completion percentage. These books that everyone talks about as being important for literature are ones that no one finishes. I don’t see that as anything to celebrate about this industry, that there are books that are supposed to be awesome that no one really enjoys."
-Hugh Howey
Too many people buy books as a sort of social or tribal signalling.  I bought this political novel, I bought that book I saw on that talk show.  This book is hot, I bought a copy and carried it conspicuously on the subway.   Leaving it on the shelf or coffee table at a party shows you're one of them, a member of the tribe.

To me, it seems like this is worse than not buying books at all.  If you aren't going to actually read what you buy - and I mean more than a few pages and skim it - why did you even purchase the thing?  So you can signal your fitness to be part of the group?  To fit in?

It just seems so pretentious and silly to me, and it also seems like a lot of books in the "best seller" list end up with this kind of treatment.  And it seems to say a lot about the entire literary fiction or political book genre.  Politicians will write a book (or, more often, have someone else write it) and have followers and fans buy hundreds of copies to move it, making it seem super popular and them terribly wise or erudite.

I would like to hope people buy my books to read them.  That's why I write them, and that's why I get books.  To read them and enjoy them.  And if more people read books instead of getting them for the signalling, perhaps things might be a little less crazy out there.  Certainly book sales would be different.

Speaking of reading, I'm slightly behind on my reading challenge for this year, but I'll catch up soon enough.