We Haven’t Turned the Page on Reading Yet

Published in Woonsocket Call on September 11, 2016

In May 1897, the great American humorist, novelist, publisher and lecturer Samuel Clemens – who we all know as Mark Twain – was in London on a world-wide speaking tour. In this City someone had started a rumor that he was gravely ill, ultimately the rumor changing to he had died.

When Twain was told that one major American newspaper actually printed his obituary, when he was told about this by a reporter, he quipped: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

As the rumor about Twain’s death was “greatly exaggerated” those lamenting the decreasing number of Americans who read print books, even predicting its demise with the advent of e-books, audio books and computer tablets is not correct, says a new Pew Research Center Survey released. Researcher Andrew Perrin notes in his study, “Book Reading 2016” that printed books remain more popular than books in digital formats for American Readers.

AAmericans Love Print Books

According to the survey findings, released on September 1, 65 percent of Americans have read a print book in the last year, more than double the share that has read an e-book (28 percent) and more than four times the share that have listened to an audio book (14 percent).

While the total share of Americans who have read a book in the last 12 months (73 percent) has remained consistent since 2012, nearly four-in-ten Americans read print books exclusively. Just 6 percent of Americans are digital-only book readers, adds the Pew Research Center Survey findings.

Although print remains the most popular book format, Americans who do read e-books are increasingly turning to multipurpose devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, says Pew Research Center Survey findings. The share of e-book readers on tablets has more than tripled since 2011, and the number of readers on phones has more than doubled over that time, says.

Perrin’s 9 page report also details other key findings.

The study found that 84 percent of American adults read to research specific topics of interest, while 82 percent read to keep up with current events, 80 percent read for pleasure, and 57 percent read for work or school. Also, 19 percent of Americans under the age of 50 have used a cellphone to read e-books, and cellphones play a relatively prominent role in the e-reading habits of blacks (16 percent) and those who have not attended college (11 percent).

As to education, the study found that college graduates are nearly four times as likely to read books – and twice as likely to read print books and listen to audio books – compared with those who have not graduated high school. In addition, Americans read an average, or mean, of 12 books per year; however, the typical, or median, American has read 4 books in the last 12 months.

Finally women (77 percent) are more likely than men (68 percent) to read books in general, and they are also more likely to read print books (70 percent). However, men and women are equally likely to read digital-format books such as e-books and audio books.

Book Buying Strong in Rhode Island

Jennifer Massotti, who manages both the Barrington and Cranston locations for Barrington Books, has some thoughts about the recently released report. “The survey findings support the reading style and buying trends that we have seen from our loyal customer base for years. The majority of our customers prefer to read from a physical book. Even those who use their smart phones to research titles, still come in looking to buy the book instead of ordering it online or downloading. This could be personal reading preference or in support of the localism movement. Either way, book buying is strong,” she says.

Massotti does not see book stores becoming obsolete because of today’s digital age. “While the advent of e-readers and online buying options certainly altered the book industry several years back, it has not been the nail in the proverbial coffin that everyone predicted … If anything, there has been a resurgence in the independent bookstore industry, specifically. Brick and mortar stores that are supported by and steeped within their communities are thriving,” she says.

Massotti says, “In fact, in the last year, RI and neighboring MA have seen that growth first-hand with the highly anticipated opening of three new bookstores. It’s a feel-good time in our industry.”

But, the general manager of Barrington Books notes, “downloading a book to your smartphone is convenient and serves a purpose to some. But it doesn’t come close to replicating the authentic experience one finds when perusing the carefully curated stacks in a bookstore, or engaging in a conversation with a like-minded bookseller.”

According to Massotti, bookstores aren’t like most other retail outlets that are in the business of selling goods; bookstores, and books, are the original social media. “It’s a sharable experience, it’s about community. You can’t get that delivered to your door or your phone,”

As to the future of reading, Massotti firmly says that e-books and digital formats will never replace print books.

Self-Publishing Leaves a Legacy

Author Steven R. Porter, a publisher, and president of the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA), representing over 260 independent and traditionally published authors who live and write in Rhode Island, says that Rhode Islanders love to read locally written books and to chat with the authors. “Readers also find great value in a signed book. There is something special about reading and sharing a book that the author held in their hands. The bottom line is that people who love to read are voracious. They can’t get enough. And we can’t write them fast enough,” he says.

Porter has seen an “explosion of self-published books”in the last 5 years, but more recently, the rate has leveled off. “I think most of the leveling has to do with the fact that there were thousands of frustrated writers in the world and when the gates finally opened, and they all rushed through at the same time,” he says, noting that improved information and technology has efficiently assisted authors getting their books to market.

“Seniors are publishing more and more every day. I think there is an inherent need in all of us to have some sort of legacy. That legacy for many may be achieved through your life’s work, or through your family, says Porter. It is the “ultimate expression of immortality,” he says.

Like Massotti, Porter agrees with the findings of the Pew Research Center’s report on book reading in America. “More people are writing than ever before, and reading than ever before. It’s a great time to be a writer and a reader!,” he says.

To read the report, go to http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/01/book-reading-2016/.

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Movies Not Just For Kids: AARP Picks Its 2013 Faves

Published in the Pawtucket Times, December 27, 2013

May be a little less visible than the Golden Globes or even the Academy Awards, the Washington, D.C.-based AARP, the nation’s largest aging advocacy group joins the two groups, recognizing outstanding writing, acting and film making but also looking at distinct relevance to the age 50 and older audience.

Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and Nebraska are among this year’s Top 10 Movies for Grownups, according to AARP The Magazine. According to the publication’s editors the top 10 list features “thoughtful films with timeless entertainment value and a particular appeal for grownup audiences.” The films are selected by the editors of AARP The Magazine, probably one of the most recognized publications geared to 50 and older Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with more than 35 million readers (sent to AARP members as a membership benefit).

Great Films for Older Audiences

As award season nears, the Golden Globe awards will be announced on January 26, 2014, followed by the Academy Awards on March 2, 2014, AARP The Magazine releases its listing of best films of the year that resonate with a 50 plus audience,” said Bob Love, Editor-in-Chief of AARP The Magazine. “We’ve seen a shift this year in that some of the most successful films at the box office were stories appealing to this mature crowd. There’s been a resurgence of interest in older actors in standout roles and 50+ directors behind the camera—and we are thrilled to see the change!”

Recognizing filmmakers age 50 plus who continue to do innovative risk-taking work, actors and actresses age 50 and over offering increasingly compelling performances, and big-screen explorations of topics that resonate specifically with baby boomers and seniors, AARP The Magazine’s editors selected the following Top 10 Movies for Grownups in 2013 (details from Wikipedia):

12 Years a Slave is a 2013 historical drama and adaptation of the 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup, a New York State-born free negro who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. in 1841 and sold into slavery. He worked on plantations in the Louisiana for twelve years before his release. The $20 million budgeted film directed by Steve McQueen with the script written by John Ridley, was filmed in New Orleans. Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as Northup and has been widely praised for his work in this 134 minute feature film. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024544/

All Is Lost is a 2013 American survival film written and directed by J.C. Chandor. The 8.5 million budget film stars Robert Redford as a man lost at sea. Redford is the only cast member, and the film has almost no dialogue. According to BBC News, the 100 minute film screened out of competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, noting that having the screening the film received a standing ovation. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2017038/

Captain Phillips is a 2013 American action thriller film directed by Paul Greengrass and starring Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi. The 133 minute film tells how merchant mariner Captain Richard Phillips was taken n hostage by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean during the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009 led by Abduwali Muse. The screenplay by Billy Ray is based upon the book, A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1535109/

Dallas Buyers Club is a 2013 American biographical drama directed by Jean-Marc Vallėe and starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner and Steve Zahn. The 116 minute film is based on the true-life tale of Ron Woodroof, who was the subject of a lengthy 1992 article in The Dallas Morning News written by journalist and author Bill Minutaglio. The film, costing $5.5 million to make, follows the Woodroof, who was diagnosed with AIDS given only 30 days to live. The only drug available brought him close to death, forcing him to smuggle anti-viral medications from all over the world (unapproved by FDA and unavailable in the U.S) to survive. He forms a buyers club, providing paying members with these unsanctioned alternative treatments, resulting in the FDA and pharmaceutical companies seeking to end his illegal activities. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0790636/

Enough Said is a 2013 American romantic comedy directed and written by Nicole Holofcener. The film stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the James Gandolfini (in one of his final roles), Toni Collette, Catherine Keener, Ben Falcone, and Toby Huss. The 93 minute film’s plot center on a woman who befriends a woman and starts dating a man at the same time, only to find out that her two new acquaintances are former spouses. This leaves her in a dilemma about whether she should risk her new friendship and romantic partner if she reveals what she has learned about them from one another. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2390361/

Gravity is a science fiction thriller directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Curón… The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts involved in the mid-orbit destruction of a space shuttle and their attempt to return to Earth. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454468/

Nebraska is a 2013 American comedy film starring Bruce Dern (father) and Will Forte (son). The 110 minute film (shot in black and white), directed by Alexander Payne, begins with Dern receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, who now thinks he is rich. He gets Forte to take a road trip, from Montana to Nebraska, to claim his prize. Along the way the two meet up with friends, relatives and acquaintances to whom the Dern ostensibly owes money. The $12 million budgeted film, shot in four states, tells the stories of family life in middle America. More info:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1821549/

Philomena is a 2013 British comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears. The 95 minute film is based on the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by Martin Sixsmith, which tells the true story of a birth mother, Philomena Lee’s 50-year-long search for her son, Michael, who she gave up for adoption. The book focuses more, as the title suggests, on the life her son had after his adoption. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2431286/

Saving Mr. Banks is a 2013 historical comedy-dram film directed by John Lee Handcock from a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith. Centered on the development of the 1964 Walt Disney Studios film Mary Poppins, the film stars Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as filmmaker Walt Disney, with supporting roles from Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Ruth Wilson, and Colin Farrell. Taking its title from the father in Travers’ story, the film depicts the author’s fortnight- long briefing in 1961 Los Angeles as she is persuaded by Disney, in his attempts to obtain the screen rights to her novels. Produced by Walt Disney Pictures and BBC Films, the 125 minute film was shot entirely in the Southern California area, primarily at the Walt Disney Studios. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2140373/

The Butler is a 2013 American historical fiction drama film directed by Lee Daniels and written by Danny Strong. The 132 minute film is loosely based on the real life of Eugene Allen, the film stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, an African-American who eyewitnesses notable events of the 20th century during his 34-year tenure serving as a White House butler. More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1327773/

AARP Award Winners Announced in January

This year’s Top 10 Movies for Grownups offers a preview of AARP’s upcoming annual Movies for Grownups Awards, recognized as a bellwether for the Academy Awards, with standard categories including Best Actor, Actress and Director, in addition to a few unique offerings like “Best Grownup Love Story,” “Best Buddy Picture,” and “Best Time Capsule Movie.” The winners in all categories will be announced in early January, and will be featured online at http://www.aarp.org/movies. The entire list of award winners will also be featured in the February/March issue of AARP The Magazine, available February 1st.

Turning Off Older Moviegoers

Over the years, movie studios have turned their back on the nation’s aging baby boomers and seniors, targeting teenagers and young adults, In these films the plot is passed on the special interests of these younger demographic groups, such as coming of age, first love, rebellion, and conflict with parents, teen angst, and alienation. For decades, the cinema industry has chased after teens that are viewed to have more disposable income that is more money to spend on going to films.

AARP sends a powerful message to Hollywood studio executives that older moviegoers have different interests than their younger cohorts. They may well want to spend their discretionary income as the editors of AARP The Magazine note on “thoughtful films with timeless entertainment value.” If ignored, grownups may well spend their discretionary dollars on other leisure activities.

Movies for Grownups®, which now includes weekly reviews and an award-winning radio program, an annual film festival, and year-round coverage in AARP The Magazine and online, was started in 2002 by the editors of AARP The Magazine. Additional information can be found online at http://www.aarp.org/movies.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

Antiquing a Great Leisure Actvity for Baby Boomers

           Published June 29, 2012           

           When furnishing your home, some might be drawn to Scandinavian design at IKEA Stores.  Personal taste and a love for traditional design furniture might bring others to Ethen Allen. For all those who like the more contemporary look, the Martha Stewart Furniture Collection may simply be their cup of tea.

            However, for Baby Boomers, Scott and Rae Davis, owners ofRhode Island’s largest antique mall, antiques are the way to go when furnishing your home. From college students, to young families, baby boomers, to even the retired, buying antiques can be a perfect solution to decorating your residence. 

            At age 50, Scott Davis, was an antique hobbyist for half of his life before he opened up Rhode Island Antique Mall inPawtucket.  His love for antiques is apparent. When asked, he quickly tells you that “Antiques make a house a home with their warmth, character and charm.”  More important, thePawtucketbusinessman will tell you that antiques will hold their value or appreciate compared to new furnishings that begin losing value immediately upon purchase. 

            Antiquing can provide you with hours of entertainment.  Especially, in winter time and rainy days, antique hunting can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to pass time without experiencing high pressure salesman or encountering large crowds while shopping at malls or large furniture stores,Davissays.   

            Today’s furniture is not built to last for a lifetime, Scott says.  “Antiques were crafted to last generations unlike today’s foreign imported products, carelessly made from particle board and drywall screws.”  Antiques almost always become family heirlooms, he says, “new items rarely do,” he observes.   

“Antiques impart a pride of ownership that is rarely equaled by new items, especially those imported from Asia,Davissays. 

           Davisrattles off a long list of other reasons to this writer, for people to consider antiquing as the way to go to when decorating your house.  “Antiques teach us about history and preserve our heritage.  They are also ‘Green’ and help preserve our natural resources; the ultimate form of recycling, he says.  

           Antiques almost always cost far less than their new counterparts,Davissays.  As an investment, antiques can even be considered assets by financial institutions and can become a significant part of one’s wealth-building strategy.

The ABC’s of Antiquing

            According toDavis, finding the right antiques for your décor may well depend on where and how you shop.  When visiting small independent shops you will usually get personalized service and advice but sacrifice the variety and selection found in a larger establishment.   Group shops or “Antique Malls,” offer a greater selection with lower prices because dealers within the mall must compete with one another.

           For those who go antiquing, the shopping experience is half the fun.Davis recommends that shoppers frequent shops that are enjoyable to be in (lighting, music, air conditioning, etc.).  “Choose shops with a good reputation, that have easy access and parking and reliable hours.  Small and out-of-the-way shops can be frustrating to find and disappointing once you get there,” he says as their hours and inventory can be inconsistent.

           Why not map an antiquing route and spend the day shopping?  Antique shops usually congregate near one another.

           Davis cautions antique shoppers to be wary of flea markets and auctions.  Antiques found at these places often times have hidden problems and the sellers can be less than reputable, he warns.  Also, avoid shops, especially those in “tourist traps” that sell repros because many times the repros are misrepresented as authentic or not clearly marked as reproductions.

Finding that Perfect Antique

            Don’t buy antiques from just anybody, warnsDavis. Always seek advice from reputable dealers you can trust.  Follow your gut and avoid advice from amateurs, he said.

            When shopping, also buy things that you like.  “Don’t be swayed by others to purchase items you won’t want to live with,”Davisadded.  “Most importantly, buy the best you can afford.  One exceptional piece will hold value better than 10 common pieces.”

           Davis believes that mixing and matching is the way to go when furnishing your home.  “Don’t be afraid to mix antique furnishing with new things.  They’ll work great together,” he says, adding that new upholstered furniture is brought to life when complimented with antique tables and cabinets for instance.

           Also, he recommends that the internet and books are keys to educating yourself about the world of antiques.  “Today there are thousands or books and websites on every subject imaginable.  Going on EBay can be a great way to learn about antiques and their values but be careful when buying on-lineDavisnotes; “Deals that seem to be too good to be true usually are.”

          Davis also warns shoppers to beware of reproductions, fakes, undisclosed repairs and “marriages” (mismatched parts).  They are becoming increasingly common.  “Avoid purchasing items like iron doorstops, mechanical banks, Asian artifacts and other commonly reproduced items unless you have a high level of knowledge in the field.”.  Most of these on today’s market are fakes so only buy them from a dealer you can trust.

If You Love It, Haggle…

        If you like something you see… buy it while you can,Davisrecommends.  Haggle on price when appropriate.  Most dealers will accept offers of 5% to possibly 20% under their ticket price on higher priced items (usually depending on what they paid for the piece),” he says or at least they’ll counter-offer.  “Dealers want to sell but replacing the sold items is becoming more difficult so be reasonable”.

      Remember, good antiques sell very fast and will likely not be there the next time you visit.

            For more information, contact Scott Davis, at RI Antiques Mall.  Go to www.riantiquesmall.com or email RIAntiquesMall@cox.net.

            Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who likes browsing in antique stores.  His Commentaries appear in two Rhode Island daily’s The Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call.