INTERN happened upon the recent Huffpo/Salon/various blog kersnuffle over Why Men Don't Read (or Whether It's Actually True That Men Don't Read, or Whether Publishing Is A Female-Dominated Industry Running Roughshod Over The Literary Needs Of Men, or whatever) rather belatedly.
For those who missed the debate, here's a brief summary:
Pinter: "Men don't read because all the books being published right now are she-books picked by she-editors promoted with she-marketing campaigns that don't make men want to buy them!"
Salon: "This is possibly true! Also, maybe there are more women in publishing than men because more women are willing to put up with the crappy pay!"
Various Blogs (in chorus): "But then why are there more male authors on the NYT best-seller list than female authors?/I'm a man and I read!/But NPR said only 1 in 4 books is bought by a man!/What is this, the 1950's? Do we really need to make such a big distinction between she-marketing and he-marketing anyway?/etc etc etc."
All of this stuff was clattering around in INTERN's head last night when INTERN's friend who volunteers at a books-for-prisoners program invited INTERN to join her at a book-sending session.
Going to this books-for-prisoners program was one of the most interesting book-related experiences INTERN has had in recent memory. It was like dropping in on Santa's workshop—there were about a dozen very industrious people flitting about bookshelves and tables, putting together packages to send to prisoners whose letters were stacked in a basket. INTERN's friend explained that they got so many letters from prisoners requesting books that there was up to a six-month waiting period for responses.
It was a funny feeling to read all those articles about Why Men Don't Read and then spend three hours sorting through letters from men who are absolutely desperate to read. INTERN is not sure what her point is in bringing up prisons in response to the gender-in-publishing debate—perhaps, as is often the case, INTERN doesn't even have a point—suffice to say that she felt a touch of the absurd, wrapping up fantasy novels and cheesy self-improvements handbooks from the 1980's for men whose circumstances made them hungry to read something, anything, whether it was she-published or he-published or published by howler monkeys.
INTERN will definitely be going back to volunteer again, and in the meantime, she is going to give some more thought to the matter.
INTERN wants to know: Do you think publishers are putting out too many she-books and/or using she-marketing tactics? Or is there something else going on that explains the gender skew in book readership?