You’re not going to believe where this is going. Ready? Do you have a guilt complex about…not finishing a book? This is a big deal in the publishing business. The publishing industry wants to know more about what people are reading and how they read. Do they put a book down and then pick it back up or do they just abandon books willy nilly or do people, on the whole, pick up a book and read it in its entirety? They’re getting the majority of their data from e-readers. Each time you sync your Kindle, Nook or whatever, the provider is able to “see” what you’ve been doing with a book. How long does it take you to say, nah, that’s enough time spent on this bomb? 25 pages, a 100 pages? Read more… There is actually some psychology behind those who stick with a book till the very end and those who just call it quits if they don’t like it. A Dr. Wilhelm, in a WSJ article speculated that, ” a person with a type A personality might be more likely to abandon a book because they tend to be motivated by reward and punishment, and if there are no consequence or public recognition, why finish?” He says, “more laid back, type B personalities, may never start a book they know they won’t finish. The more important motivator for finishing a book is social pressure, like a book club.” It could be true but from my perspective it’s this way: my husband, type A personality, very seldom picks out a book. Either a friend gives him an author they think he might like or I do the picking for him. Therefore, if he doesn’t like a book, he can easily put it down because he has no time invested in discovering and buying/downloading the book. The only pressure he may feel to finish is if a friend gave him the book and then he feels he owes it to the other guy to finish it and give him his opinion. Me, on the other hand, the type B personality, will read reviews, look at lists of new books, get emails from Barnes and Nobles and Amazon on new books out, what are the prize winners for this year, recommendations from friends, book club selections, New York Times book reviews and their ads, NPR interviews…Whew! Just tired myself out. So for me, I’m more likely to finish a book because I have invested so much time and effort into picking the damned thing out! Sorry. Another reason for people abandoning books is timing. If you want to read Wolf Hall but you don’t have a peaceful, easy feeling going on in your life, the book won’t connect and you’ll put it down. It’s time to read Insane City by Dave Barry. Or if you’re in that stage of life were love might be looming, Anna Karenina might sweep you away with her passion. But later in life, after a few kids etc, Anna may come across as selfish and irresponsible
E-readers are definitely making it easier to put down a book or put it down (or iCloud it) for further future (is that redundant?) reading. Sara Nelson, editorial director of books and Kindle at Amazon sees book abandonment frequently among Kindle readers. She believes that e-readers “have given the consumer not so much license to stop, but to dip in and out of books, depending on their moods. I’ll go along with that. Goodreads.com allows it’s 18 million members to rank the most initiated but unfinished books of all time: 7300 members have voted. Top of the list: Catch 22 by Joseph Heller was #1 and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy a close #2 (now THAT I don’t understand). According to about 20% of the books read by their members are left unfinished. Here are the books reported to have been dropped midstream this year:
#1 The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling (I never even bought it); #2 Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (I’m a fan but I can see how this would turn people off); #3 Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (I despised this book but finished it, sort of, skipped all of India, just to see what all of the fuss was about); #4 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson (I got a lot of people to finish this book simply by telling them to read until he gets to the cabin in the woods. Nothing good ever happens in a murder mystery when there’s a cabin in the woods); #5 Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (hadn’t even considered it).
Right now I’m reading a new biography of Charles Manson, Manson, by Jeff Guinn. I will finish it, even though I know the ending, because Guinn has done what Erik Larson does so well. That is encapsulate the life of Manson into the time in which he was raised and fermented, the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. My time of fermenting…A book I’m going back to? Don’t laugh, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti. Go ahead. Smile…