Companies want people to read less because reading makes people smarter

Sue Zoldak at The Daily Caller writes a very interesting piece -

Why Steve Jobs doesn’t want you to read

Here’s a key part -

how Steve Jobs had ironically managed to use increased competition between the iPad and other e-book readers to raise, not lower, the price of ebooks. Jobs accomplished this feat by negotiating new deals with the major publishers

Come to think of it, it is rather remarkable – Increased competition led to ebook prices going up.

Here’s another key part -

The real question is, why the diametrically opposed philosophies by Steve Jobs? He wanted everyone to listen to music and revolutionized the music industry with the $0.99 song pricing model, so why doesn’t he want you to read $9.99 books?

Predictably, people are rather upset that anyone would say anything bad about the arguably greatest marketer/hand-waver ever.

However, the key thing here is that Steve Jobs helped out Publishers. A comment from Meredith Greene at Teleread hits the nail right on the head -

It is the opinion of many of my fellows that hardback prices were deliberately lowered, along with a corresponding series of hikes in eBook prices, by the big five/six in order to stem the vast tide of eBook popularity with the powerful (yet flighty) sword of disenfranchisement.

Unfortunately for the large conglomerates, they’ve mostly fostered a wall of resentment toward themselves, 

People would claim that Steve Jobs is only helping Publishers for personal profit. However, there’s a remarkably simple explanation for why slowing down the rise of reading benefits any corporation like Apple greatly.

Reading is a huge threat to the entire corporate structure. To the ‘customer as mindless consumer’ culture that TV and Advertising have helped create over decades.

Consider the sort of misdirection Steve Jobs uses (again from a super-smart commenter at Teleread, Michael Long) -

“Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. ”

That’s a classic piece of misdirection by Jobs, perfectly stated.

Why? Turn it around, and it says that SIXTY percent of the people in the U.S. read two books or MORE last year.

Who wouldn’t want a piece of that market?

Steve Jobs is not only playing down books, he’s also actively doing things to kill reading, i.e.

  1. Driving book prices higher.
  2. Selling a device that will get people to read less (than they would if they had an eReader).

It could be a random coincidence. Except, the death of reading happens to be exactly the thing that would most benefit any large corporation.

Smart people just aren’t that profitable

Consider the world around us – Most companies make money from people’s weaknesses. TV. Advertising. Fast Food. Wall Street. The list is endless.

It’s a corporate world dependent on people being clueless. The smarter people get, the worse-off these companies are.

Let’s say a young boy reads If and takes these lines to heart -

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

Then he wouldn’t need an iPhone to show how cool he was or a fashion label to consider himself attractive. He wouldn’t care what was going on in the life of some celebrity in New York and he certainly wouldn’t ignore the beautiful, real women around him to focus on some emaciated model in Milan.

That weakens a lot of things – Advertising, Fashion, Consumerism.

We live in a world where luxuries and things harmful to us are portrayed as absolute neccessities. The foundation of this ‘people as cattle to be harvested and herded’ culture is ignorance.

There really isn’t any way other than reading what people with integrity have written to get beyond it. Someone has to teach it to you or you have to read it yourself and learn. However, it gets tougher and tougher as teaching budgets are cut and roadblocks are put in that prevent teachers from doing a good job. At the same time, TV and media and the Internet’s big advertising reliant sites are working non-stop on inculcating a me-centric consumer culture.

Reading is a huge threat to consumerism. ‘I’ gets replaced by ‘We’. Ignorance gets replaced by Knowledge.

Kipling says -

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

The TV says -

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of someone else’s life

Companies don’t want us to embrace reading because reading is a dangerous thing.

Reading is very dangerous to profit

There’s a book called The Power of Half by Hannah Salwen and Kevin Salwen. It talks about a family that moved out of their expensive mansion into a regular house and gave the money saved to charity.

It’s scary. It reminds me that I could get by happily on half the rent (perhaps 65% to be on the safe side). It reminds everyone that the point of life isn’t to show yourself (or others) how big of a house you can buy.

Would an idea like that ever be taught on TV? Would any company ever promote it?

5Star Mortgage Corporation now presents – You can get by with a smaller house!

110 Calories Soft Drink company presents – The Advantages of Water.

A simple thing like a fable is dangerous. It might teach a person to not covet their neighbour’s things. That would certainly slow down the consumerism juggernaut.

TV = Smartest people in advertising trying to get you to believe that happiness and good feelings are yours for the taking if you buy the products companies are offering.

Books = Smartest people of the generations talking about how you can just look into yourself and find far more happiness.

The TV person says a Volvo will make you happy. Kipling says virtue and character will. The shiny happy person on TV says you need to get a 3D TV to fully enjoy the beauty of the Eiffel Tower. Read The Hunchback of Notre Dame and you might decide you’d rather travel to Paris and see Paris in real life.

All the nonsensical moves make sense if you consider that the aim is to prevent People from becoming smarter

Why would Apple be helping ebook prices to go up? Why would it be interfering in a market it claims to not be interested in?

Because reading will, down the line, have a big impact on people buying devices for status and to achieve coolness.

Why is the education system progressively getting worse? Why does every kid have to start off their life with a huge college loan?

Because it’s easier to sell a fantasy to someone who has little hope. If kids were leaving college with zero loans and excellent skills they wouldn’t need to buy stuff to be happy.

Why do companies want all your personal information? Why would they be promoting the notion that sharing all your personal information with advertisers is fine?

Because they want to get better at telling you what to buy. It’s not that young kids don’t care about privacy – just that they are constantly brainwashed to believe that advertisers knowing everything about them is perfectly alright.

Anyways, this is getting too long. Reading is the enemy of every company that is part of the Consumerism culture. It’s the enemy of institutions like Wall Street that milk every day people. Reading is the enemy of the Top 1% that own 90% of the wealth.

Reading = Knowledge = The American Dream = A Fair Shot for Everyone.

That’s really the reason why people are so upset with reading – It might get people to realize that they are meant to enrich their own lives and not the lives of the filthy-rich Top 1%.

Here’s a rather rough comment that captures the point (can’t find the source now) -

it’s really not that hard to understand the top 2% (or whatever) owning 90+% (or whatever) of America’s resources is wrong. I’ll make it simple. there’s 100 people, and 2 have 90% of the food, houses and women (men, spas, trips to Paris, bitter chocolate), while the other 98% split up the dregs. i don’t care how awesome they are at lying, cheating, lobbying. just because they worked harder at being d-bags doesn’t make it an effective society

In the dream+nightmare world large corporations are building, people wouldn’t know how to read, so they wouldn’t be able to read such heresy.

12 Responses

  1. You Communist! :P

    (Sorry I don’t have time for more right now, but felt compelled to raise a cheer.)

  2. This is a BRILLIANT post. Thank you for writing it.

  3. Wow. Just wow. Talk about looking for a conspiracy theory behind every bush. LOL

  4. Again…you rock my world. Great commentary.

  5. Jeez, talk about ridiculous conjecture. This is a prefab accusation that you could level on any person of power. A cookie cutter template argument straight from the french 15th century. The only specific quote attributable to “companies” is a a few years old quote from steve jobs explaning why apple doesn’t want to get into books business, which is outdated anyway, because apple has gone into the books business in the end. And what is “companies” anyway, if you’re not working for the the government, or a non profit organization, then you are part of this “companies”, and I could accuse you of wanting the consumer to stay dumber. After all, who needs proof.

    Nevermind that educated people tend to actually have more disposable income to spend.

    • Johan, it’s not an accusation, it’s reality. And almost every person in a position of power tries to lock-in more than they deserve.

      If you love Apple then simply out them into a separate compartment and consider any company that you don’t have an emotional bond with.

      Government is the same. As is non-profit.

      If we aren’t careful we all ending up rationalizing our self-interest over what’s best for everyone (including us). Short-sighted self-interest Versus what’s best for everyone.
      Then to cover up that short-sighted self-interest and the exploitation there’s a need to fool people and eventually it gets to where companies realize that if people are fools to being with it’s the best way to fool them.

      We aren’t even talking about educated people. We’re talking about an attack on education itself.

  6. You and Sue Zoldak make some good points. However, the hard work of Dumbing Down America has been going on for decades. IMHO, poor schools are the most effective weapon followed by TV. To say that Steve Jobs is working hard to make sure people don’t read is simplistic. Isn’t Apple simply going after the markets that suit Apple products?

    • It’s simplistic – that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

      How does reading suit the iPad? It doesn’t. However, people buying an iPad instead of Kindle and reading less than they would and being more into the consumer mind-set suits Apple a lot.

  7. Excellent commentary drawing from Rudyard Kipling’s poem, Switch! I had to memorize “If” in high school and can still quote it, obviously making it one of my favorites. Your thoughts are right on target, to my way of thinking.

  8. As Geoffrey Palmer (as ‘Ben’) in the Eighties Brit-Com “Butterflies” stated… “Dangerous things, books….”
    I always loved that line. :)

  9. The flaw in your argument is that no one is compelled to paying inflated prices for ebooks. The only way your premise holds water is if people had no lower-priced options of comparable quality to what the major publishers provide, which isn’t the case. There are six of them and 70,000 to 80,000 independent small presses–and by that I do NOT mean “independent” self-publishing authors. May of those presses also offer ebooks and do so at a reasonable price.

    If people are truly concerned, all they need do is vote with their wallets. Certainly, the small presses can use the money.

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