Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Literacy and eBooks on Cellphones

Over the last couple of weeks I have come across these interesting factiods:

  • Half of the best selling novels in Japan last year were originally written on cellphones.   
  • In the first eight months of last year Goma Books sold over 1,000,000 copies of it's two most popular titles: The Red Thread by Mei and If You Could by Rin. 


  • The New York Times reports  that many cellphone novelists had never written fiction before, and many of their readers had never read novels before, according to publishers.
  • According to the novelist Rin:  “They  (young Japanese readers) don’t read works by professional writers because their sentences are too difficult to understand, their expressions are intentionally wordy, and the stories are not familiar to them.”
  • The CIA World Fact Book reports the rate of literacy in the US is 99%.
  • The NEA reports that the percentage of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year period. Yet the amount they read for school or homework (15 or fewer pages daily for 62% of students) has stayed the same.

I use the word literacy often but if you asked me to define it I would probably stumble around and make a vague statement that about reading. I really think about it vague and somewhat academic terms. 

On impulse I went to the dictionary and looked it up.  My Dad would be so proud!.  Here is what I found:  Literacy is the ability to read, write, communicate, and comprehend words. 


I don't see one word about reading books in that definition.  What I see is that literacy is about communication. 

There are millions of teen who text message every day.  Even my aunt tells me that her eight year old granddaughter texts her so often that she has had to learn how text back. 

These messages are written communications using words.  If you think about it, the text messagers are  by definition literate.  Who knows, that might even be as literate as a PhD who writes a thousand page tome on Henry James. 

Which brings me to the conclusion that the problem for publishers is not reading ability or lack of it.  It is more simply a case that most of the books produced aren't doing the job of communicating.

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