Why the books collect dust and what the media to do with that

“Why do you have so many books? I’ve thrown away everything I’ve got from the parents. They collect only dust”, an accidental guest trapped me with this question. Nothing major but she said this at my son presence who was going to the first grade at school. Interestingly, what she would have said if she’d seen the library of the Italian writer and philosopher Umberto Eco (died in 2016) which consists of 50 thousand books.

I personally think, the attitude towards books and reading in general says a lot about a person and society. We boast from time to time that the Ukrainians read a lot. But we don’t know it for sure whether they read a lot or not. Recently, relevant researches haven’t been carried out and publishers are unwilling to disclose the information about circulation and sales volumes. And limited circulation of the Ukrainian literature which is published, small scope of the book market, the absence of bookshop chains in the regions – facts which somewhat refute this thesis. The question is not how much they read but what and how they do it.

Today the publishers found common language in the necessity of campaigning for popularisation of reading. This can, among other things, revive the book market. As it’s widely known, supply creates its own demand.

Moreover, campaign for popularisation of reading can unite all regions since this idea has absolute support both in the east and in the west. At least it was shown in the results of the social research carried out by Pollster, commissioned by the Ukrainian Institute of Media and Communication, from August 21 to September 2018 (using method of online survey 1001 of responders aged 18 and older who live in 120 cities in all regions of Ukraine were questioned).

So, supporting the opinion that popularisation of the campaign will positively influence the development of the Ukrainian book market, the overwhelming majority of the interviewed citizens  – 78,6% (in the west they’re 88,1 %, in the central part – 81,8%, in the south – 71,5%, meanwhile 13,7% doesn’t support this idea. Another 7,7% could come up with the answer).

Why does this issue concern not only the book publishers and but also the fight with corruption, the task that needs state, public and media assistance? Not everyone will agree but a lot of conflicts in our society (I mean not war) that Ukraine’s experiencing today – are from the limited horizons of elites and ordinary citizens. The limited horizon is insufficient knowledge about the world, each other, other regions, which is refilled not only through the life experience but basically through reading. Furthermore, critical thinking is the basis of the ability to resist manipulative informational influences. Critical thinking can’t exist without reading. The loop is closed.

I’m not going to analyze the role of the state in this process (since this is the topic of another analytical publication) but I say something about the media because their voice in the popularisation could be grave. In a particular period of my life, I was actively watching the German media. I’ve been always surprised how much attention different German editions pay to the books and culture in general. On the ZDF (German societal broadcast) for more than ten years extremely popular program “Literary Quartet” with a presenter Marcel Reich-Ranicki had been broadcasting. It’s opposite in our country. Many years in a row when one or another media company needed to optimize expenses, they usually saved up on the culture department. If talking about the TV space, among the wide national TV channels, only 1+1 had programs about books. In 2007 on the First National Channel of Ukraine the program “Book.ua” appeared, which was closed later, but now, luckily, it has been revived on the UA:First. By the way, on the UA:First there are some programs connected with books but the Suspilne Channels don’t have a big audience yet. Main media groups which have the big audience has considered this topic underrated.

I looked through the top five wide national TV channels – nothing about the books. There’s nothing about books in newspapers and magazines. There’re several sites such as “LitAktsent”, “Bukvoid”, “Chytomo”, but all of them have limited resources and therefore opportunities. BBC Ukraine establishes contest “Book of the year” every year. Obviously, this is not enough.

Unfortunately, the media, first of all, TV channels aren’t interested in creating programs about books and promoting reading as such.

Social responsibility is a rare phenomenon. How to make them interested? How to find a common language between publishing houses and the media? The answers to these questions could have tangible results for everyone in the future. Firth of all for society. Because the society that doesn’t read is easy to manipulate.

Thus, we’re moving to the political platforms. The problem isn’t even in that it’s easy for the state to have an uneducated and therefore manipulated society. Today, there’s another problem – knowledge isn’t a key criterion for career ladder even for political one. So, demand for knowledge (including those required by reading) is very low. This situation should be changed because this is the question of country surviving in the changing world of new technologies and innovations.

Diana Dutsyk

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