Do Publishers Ever Read for Fun?

Everyone wants a career that lets them do what they love. My mom became a teacher because it allowed her to be a coach (basketball, volleyball, and softball). My dad combined his agriculture lifestyle with his business frame of mind and is now able to farm almonds and sell those almonds to his own company.

Those working in the publishing industry have the same story. They got into the business because they love books and they love to read. But how much does this job allow them to do what they love? Sure, they read thousands of words every week on the job—but how much do they find themselves reading for fun?

I took it upon myself to find out. I talked to a literary agent, along with discussing the cCatch-22 with some of my classmates and reading this New York Times article. The literary agent says that for him, finding time to read books purely for fun is a near impossibility, and that he gets around one to two books a year. Even when reading for fun, often on vacation (as is the case with publishers interviewed by the New York Times), the books are usually comp titles and reading them is partly pleasure, partly market research.

My classmates, on the whole, agreed with that sentiment. One student who, before beginning this program, was able to read around fifty books in a year,, was only able to read one to two books for fun last term. Another finished three out of the seven books she was juggling and others managed to get five or six finished over term.

The literary agent explains that for him, it’s the constraint on his time that is the issue, rather than a love of reading being sapped away. A fellow Ooligan student says that they would read more, but the pull towards Netflix is sometimes stronger since it is a type of entertainment that takes a different form than homework and publishing duties. The literary agent agrees, saying that sometimes reading for pleasure may seem like work, especially because publishers and editors use so much of their free time for publishing and editing tasks.

Gillian Blake, one of the publishers interviewed by the New York Times, says that choosing a book to read over vacation is a very big decision, explaining that she often brings more books than she knows she will read so that she can switch if her current book is a disappointment.

If this has discouraged any future publishers out there, take heart. I read fifty-five books in 2015 and sixteen books just last term. Another classmate continues to average around sixty books a year. Will this change when we graduate and begin to work full-time in the publishing industry? One hopes not, but only time will tell.

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