Nothing like getting angry to get me blogging. I truly hate that the petty and small-minded are busy writing stories claiming that statistics show kids not to be reading more after the Harry Potter phenomenon. Every one of these I’ve seen – from the illustrious NY Times to a number of dashed off Internet articles (like this one) – is looking at the entire pool of potential young readers and saying that the gross numbers of kids reading books have not gone up, therefore the boom wasn’t real and … I am no statistician, but this seems to me insane, a way to snipe at Rowling and her billions since you can’t match her earnings.
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Surely the comparison to be made is whether kids who devoured Harry Potter are reading more now (of HP and other things) than they read previously. I’ve not seen that spoken to anywhere. Another interesting breakdown of the data would be whether the kids who read the first few chapter books not when they were initially published, but later when those kids reached an age that allowed them to read books one and two and three, i.e. the series before it became complex and YA slanted (and I’m not including the vast numbers of adults who have read every book as it came out – different subject) went on to read other books. Did they go on in the series immediately?
Rowling did something very interesting by allowing her characters to pretty much age in real time. What did that do to her readership? Did the kids reading the books at their age-appropriate level during the time when the newer, longer books with older characters and different kinds of problems were available go on reading the series? Did they then look for other books and if so at what age levels?
And the above questions are a joke in a business that does less market-research than your local pound.
Here’s a place where the beleaguered and much mourned local bookstores might step in with consumer surveys, but if they have I have not heard about it. And the on-the-other-hand answer is, why isn’t this the publisher’s job? In which regard: We were at a showing of the very likeable Ratatouille the first weekend it came out. In our theater (an ubiquitous multi-plex) there were people from the studio handing out massive numbers of questionnaires (with pencils taped on) asking for answers to a large number of multiple choice questions. That effort took place in selected markets all across the country on the release day. Where the hell are the publishers? And I am tired of hearing about how expensive such efforts are. The ultimate expense is allowing your business to disappear up its own posterior.