80 percent. Look at that statistic well, because that’s the percentage of households that didn’t buy or read a new book in America during the entire year according to a survey conducted by The Jenkins Group. The survey goes on to say that 42 percent of College Graduates report that they never read another book after leaving and that 1/3 of High School Graduates report the same. It also mentions that 57 percent of new books are never read to completion.
Take a moment to let all that sink in. You’re looking at some pretty dire statistics there. Now, for a small bit of relief, the survey in question was conducted around 2003. So taking into account the recent boom in YA, these statistics might have changed a little. I say a little, because ultimately, the book industry is still mostly the same as it was back then and so there’s no reason to believe that suddenly people have turned off their televisions and begun to read the nearest copy of Pride and Prejudice.
For a long time now, we book lovers have known the dire straits of the American publishing industry. It’s a bit depressing at times, to be honest. As if the fact that people aren’t reading that much was bad, we have to contend with the fact that a large number of novels published are clichéd, badly written, and or unimaginative. Even with the recent growth in popularity for YA fiction, there is still many of the aforementioned problems. Perhaps this is why according to that same survey, 70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance or for that matter make a profit.
A scary statistic if there ever was one. (insert nervous laugh)
So what can be done about it? I certainly wouldn’t be the first person to have asked that question. In fact, many have. But the answer has never quite come. It has alluded us time and time again.
And now, well, I think I may know the reason why.
*dramatic drum roll*
We’re eating our own tail.
By that, I mean, we have nowhere to look for innovative ideas except from ourselves. America’s YA industry is insular, always looking inward. Look no further than certain book trends for proof of that truth.
But, there is an option for us that we have never been given before.
We can look to an equally large, if not larger YA industry, across the sea.
What? You didn’t know that they were one of the top book publisher’s in the world with one heck of an active YA industry? Not surprising, most don’t.
The reason is that nobody has ever taken the time to write about it in English, ever. In fact, if certain American publishers hadn’t taken some substantial risks in bringing over certain Japanese YA novels, few if any Americans would have even become aware of their existence.
So, without further ado, I am proud to make the announcement that on this blog, one week from today, next wednesday, I will begin to publish a series of articles on Japanese YA that for the first time in English explain how the industry works overseas.
These set of blog length essays will be aimed at writers, readers and publishing insiders alike. They will offer a unique glimpse at a world of literature rarely seen and a view of the YA industry that will come across as both magical and strangely odd.
It is my hope, that by looking closely at a nation that has one of the highest readership rates in the world, where books are loved equally by young and old and where a thriving YA industry exists today, we might find inspiration for our own.
Hey, it’s worth a shot, right?