"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Making a Buck Off Reading

 by Susan Ohanian


                                                                                        MARCH IS

                                                                       NATIONAL READING MONTH


Sound the trumpets! An e-mail announcement from the Orlando Sentinel invites me to Celebrate National Reading Month with them--and get "Up to 25% Off Select Books." A few minutes later I receive the same announcement from the Chicago Tribune, proof that I get mail from too many newspapers. 

Maybe I'm being petty to complain that I find it odd that this Celebration of Reading features a cookbook. I like cookbooks as much as the next person but I see them as something one noses around in--while in the kitchen. I've never thought of taking one to the sofa in front of the fireplace for two hours of reading. The book trumpeted by the Tribune media group happens to be a collection of columns by a Tribune columnist--and copyrighted by the Tribune.

Each paper in the Tribune media group also offers a book or two on a local theme: For Orlando, it's Purple Reign: Orlando City's Inaugural 2015 Major League Soccer Season and The Dolphins at 50. Of course they published both. For Chicago, it's a book about the Black Hawks and an e-book by Clarence Page, copyrighted by the Tribune. A Baltimore Sun Newspaper Book, Iron Man: Cal Ripken Jr's Historic Career comes in at $39.99, discounted from $59,99, Somewhat pricey for 89 pages. But the Newspaper Books offered by the Chicago Tribune cost even more.

The Baltimore Sun is unique in offering a few books one might find on conventional reading lists: There's a thriller and a story set in Raj India--both by former newspaper staffers (who even hold the copyrights--so there's no extra lucre here for the newspaper). The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood is set in Baltimore and was a New York Times book of the year--in 1998. There's also a book by Baltimore native Tom Clancy and a classic by another author with Baltimore connections, Zora Neal Hurston. One can only wonder why, having taken this approach the paper didn't give a nod to Baltimore transplant Ann Tyler. And H. L. Mencken is still worth reading. 

But hats off to someone at the Baltimore Sun who made an actual effort, small as it may be, to connect a celebration of reading with the city. 

Books fall to the wayside in an onslaught of other merchandise expressing enthusiasm for reading: sandstone coasters, tote bags, bomber hats, plush hats, sweatshirts, T-shirts galore. A hoodie will set you back $52 + tax and shipping. These newspapers, as well as their kissing kin at the Los Angeles Times, also offer coffee mugs in white, yellow, maroon, green, and black--all with the slogan "Books Better Than People." A set of mugs in the same colors declares "Go Away, I'm Reading!" 

Yes, the Tribune media group is eager to celebrate reading--if there's a chance to  make a buck or two off the enterprise.

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