Do men read? And if not, why not? And what should we be doing about it?
Following links can be a route to perdition or at least a large waste of time... And occasionally thought-provoking... look, there was always a small statistical probability it has to happen ;-). It, um, has relevance to Amanda's question of yesterday. Eventually accidents will bring readers to your site. The trick is keeping them.
Anyway - to proceed with my easily derailed train of thought. While looking at this article lhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-a-stackpole/publishing-crashes-in-201_b_532795.html (worth reading, but with a little pinch of salt, I think) I happened on a link to this item about another Huffpo item... in Salon. Now anything that called itself ‘salon' does not have much attraction for the hirsute and shaggy fellow that I am, but I read it simply because the title "Why Men don't read Books" http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/05/04/men_don_t_read/index.html is of some interest to me. I want EVERYONE reading. I believe it is vitally important that people do (even if it is not my books that they read. So long as they read).
Now, as a sales pitch for the site, I am afraid the article failed for me, as it's not -- as I was hoping -- a well-referenced and scientifically analytical piece. The only stats Miller gets around to (down in the letters) are rather dodgy as there is none of the required statistical rigor to them - they're a self-selected sample for starters... but it was interesting for the responses it provoked. The curious logic -- in both the responses, subtitle and author's conclusion -- was also quite funny, if you like irony.
Lets start with a few premises here: 1) Some men do read. We're really asking about what they read and why they read that, and why those who don't read, don't, and what the proportions are. Real numbers, real facts. Actually we'd like to know what women read, why, etc., what every possible market/social segment reads. But there is some not very well proven (but I suspect correct) evidence that men are reading and buying less. This really not good news for anyone (even militant feminists who believe all men are EEEEVUL.) It wouldn't be good news if the segment being alienated was Chinese or lesbian or believers in the great Arckleseizure. It's worse-than-average bad news, because if you breed dogs that can bite your head off, having them good-natured, intelligent and thoughtful about possibly doing so is more important than if you're breeding Toy Poms (think about that, if it doesn't make your head hurt too much).
2)There really seems to be no good research on this. One has to wonder why something as fundamental as "why am I not effectively getting to 50% of my possible audience" is not of burning interest to publishers, and not vitally important to the government of any forward-looking society (after all, the social and intellectual capital of any society rests on literacy, and on the literate having a catholic reading habit). Ignorance might keep you in power, but it also means you are in power over a financially weak and socially frail society.
So: what do you think? Is this bunkum, and reading is really distributed normally with the probability of those with an IQ of over 100 being more or less equal?
Is it Okay that men (or pick any other group) read less?
Is this about the money editors earn (Laura Miller's Pink Ghetto theory), or are there other forces at work? Given my own experience - being a writer is mostly terribly badly paid, with most editors living a secure, comfortable life compared to that, and that I would be livid if anyone said that should be any group's preserve, and it isn't. Or that some of the worst paying jobs in the qualified world are in field biology - as bad or worse than writing and far worse than editing (gee, my first direction before blundering into writing - do I detect a trend here?) and it's a very male dominated area (principally I think because it's dirty, physically hard, and badly paid. You really have to love it do do it. There are more women involved now... and oddly pay scales have improved along with that - so rather than getting worse because women are there, its getting better. Which is a good thing.) I can't say I believe pay can be the sole reason. It was a male dominated field once. I suspect careful analysis will show editors then were as screwed as they are now, relative to margins etc. So what other factors could be at work in the editorial gender imbalance? Is there one? Does it matter?
Doesn't diversity proportionate to your target audience make some kind sense - especially when diversity means getting the viewpoint of 50% of the possible audience? If I owned a publishing house aiming at generally accessible fiction it would make financial sense to me to not recruit an editorial board from same gender/ town/ orientation/color as I am. If I had little choice I'd aim for where my market was, surely? Ergo, if I were gay and Japanese, and wanted to only sell books to a gay Japanese market, it would make sense that my staff were gay and Japanese (or at least familiar with that group and culture). If I were trying to sell books to a more general audience, I'd want an editorial staff who at least knew a lot about other sectors, even if they did not have a physical representivity. New York is a very large city, (but still a tiny segment of the US, let alone English readers) but as a statistician the subsection its editors seem come from /live in is not. Is this part of the problem - like Hollywood assuming the world is just like Hollywood?
Leaving the occasional stupid sexist diatribes out (men are not too easily distracted by TV/video games, any more than women's brains explode if they try to read) are there any real concrete reasons why men could be reading less? (I can't say the gender of the writer is big issue with me, but the publishing date is!)
More questions than answers. Is this real, if so what should writers, readers and editors do about it?
Let the riot begin.