It never occurred to me until this year to keep track of the number of books I will read or listen to over the course of the year. My current tally confirms what I had pretty much suspected - I average a respectable two books plus two audiobooks per month. However, forty-eight books sounds like a lot only until I take a look at the two single spaced pages of "Dale's reading wish list" that sits on the hard drive of my computer at work. What's frightening about this wish list is that although I only began compiling it in January, it already contains more titles than I can read in a year; it grows by at least a title or two nearly every week after I have perused the latest Publisher's Weekly.
Like most avid readers, I keep a mental list of favorite authors whose works will automatically get bumped to the top of my queue; my co-workers fully expect me to call first dibs on new works by Philip Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer, Tom Perrotta, Stephen King, Nathan Englander, Elisa Albert and Malcom Gladwell. Other authors who automatically make my list (but without my necessarily calling first dibs) include Mary Gordon, Marilynne Robinson, Chris Bohjalian, Allan Bennett, and John Irving. However, at least two thirds of the titles on my list are by authors whose work I have not yet read but who have been given intriguing reviews in PW. Watching this list grow beyond all reasonable proportion is maddening and yet also strangely comforting.
And yes, thanks to my participation on Dead Guy, crime fiction is also being included on that list. Plugged, by Eion Colfer; Never Knowing, by Chevy Stevens; You're Next, by Gregg Hurwitz; and The Sixes, by Kate White are just a few of the titles that come readily to mind.
As I mentioned in previous postings, one of the perks of being a librarian is that we often can gain access to ARCs, not only by our favorite authors, but also by any number of new and/or relatively unknown writers whose works are being promoted by their publishers. But in spite of the fact that a book may have come to me for free, my free time for reading is at a premium. The library's book group meets nine or ten times a year and even though I choose almost all of the books that the group reads, many of the titles on my reading wish list are not necessarily books that would be good choices for the group. I am also a member of a very small book group that meets three or four times a year to exclusively discuss the works of Philip Roth . That leaves me with only eleven books to read that are totally "free choice" in addition to the 24 on audio that I listen to in the car. Another of my problems is that many of the titles on my wish list are not available on audio.
So just because someone gives me an ARC for free doesn't mean that I am going to be willing to make an investment of my time to reading it.
And here is where the discussion comes back to e-books. As I reported last week, Eli Neiburger predicts a future in which e-books will be free, but come with advertising. (It might be fun to try to figure out which authors might be sponsored by which products, but I will leave that to a future posting.) However, I am hearing more and more about e-books that are being made available, if not for free, then for a nominal price that would likely not be an obstacle for a large number of people. The fact that an e-book may be had for free (or really cheap), coupled with the instant gratification of being able to download it virtually anywhere does seem to be getting a lot of people very excited.
But not me. I already have free access to the books I want to read because I borrow them from the library; I also strongly suspect that a majority of the books that are on my wish list are not the ones that are going to be given away free to e-reader users. And until someone can figure out a way for me, short of retirement, to expand the amount of time I have for reading, the simple fact of a book being free is not going to be enough of an incentive for me to invest my time in reading it.
But that's just me. What say the rest of you?