Name a book that changed your life. In the age of transmedia, content translates onto (and into) multiple platforms, and15 minutes of fame can be forgotten as soon the screen goes black or the battery dies. Yet somehow books – abc or e – still have the power to create a lasting impression. Not surprisingly, eBooks are gaining ground, but a book is still a book.
According to the 2012 US Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review, 20- to 30-year-olds spend more money than any other age group on books. In fact, millennials now buy 30% of all books, compared to the 24% purchased by baby boomers. However, over 40% of millennials buy their books online, and they’re taking the lead in opting for digital texts.
In the 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report, Scholastic interviewed 1,045 children aged 6 to 17 and their parents. The report found that of the kids who read for fun less than once a week, one third said they would read more if they had eBooks. But even more importantly, two thirds of all kids said they would never want to give up their printed books. Books stimulate imaginations and open up new worlds unlike any other medium.
When I was about eight, I read a book called Freckle Face, about a girl who had as many freckles as I did. Even after an hour on Amazon I couldn’t find the author. But I clearly remember the black, white, and burnt orange cover, and the tinted pen and ink drawings inside. When the freckle-faced girl discovered the garden of beautifully spotted tiger lilies, the picture practically jumped off the page. I checked this book out of the library so many times, my mother finally bought me my own copy. Whenever I felt lonely, freckly, or just pre-adolescent, I read that book and instantly felt better. It was a game-changer. Years later, I discovered another enlightening read: Goodnight Moon. Reading this book over and over to my infant daughter taught me how to bond with words, even when one of us couldn’t yet speak.
My son, who was always wise beyond his years, was still not reading in second grade. He found books “stupid.” Enter Captain Underpants. A chapter book! A real story! No rhymes! I watched my young anti-bookworm morph into an empowered reader. Within months, he was tackling Moby Dick. Fourteen years later, he barely remembers the story, but he’s never without a book. Asked what he thought changed his life, he immediately answered, Harry Potter. “It’s the seminal book of my generation,” he explained. ” It began as a story to read together as a family. Then it grew with me to a read-alone, offering increasingly more complex themes, characters, and lessons. I never tire of reading it.” In fact, as we had this discussion, he was listening to Goblet of Fire on tape. I heard a similar story from a married woman of 26. She keeps her old pile of Harry Potters near her childhood bed for a relaxing read when she comes to visit her parents.
Two other women, one from claustrophobic Queens, one from sunny California, cited The Little House on the Prairie series as books that opened their eyes to ways other people live.
In our business, we all know that content is king. A good story can be pixel-ated, merchandised, licensed, and branded. It’s how we make money. But don’t lose sight of the fact that a good story can also change your life. Especially when it’s read.
Tell me your favorite story at firstname.lastname@example.org.