So, reading has gone down significantly. Studies have documented a loss of 20 million potential readers from 1982 to 2002. Most blame the Internet, and all the attention that has gone to it (the age bracket that has been hit the hardest was 18-25, the age that mostly uses the Internet). Some say it's the way books are introduced to the youth in school and their following perception of it. Perhaps it is being pushed too hard on the children and they reject it. Maybe reading is not being pushed hard enough. An economic class view has the perception that most middle class and upper class kids see reading as an enjoyable recreation while poorer kids view it solely as a tool to further their attainment of good wages (although there are plenty of children who see it as both or something else altogether). Statistics about today's reading go into all kinds of divides from liberal and conservative, to racial, and even which kinds of genres are most popular in which social groups.
Since there's no real, visible source of the problem, no real solution has materialized. The National Endowment for the Arts has met with other groups and library chairmen to discuss the situation. I'm not really sure how a future life on the Internet would work for literary. Digital space and data is infinite and changeable, as well as easy to steal, putting books in the same category as MP3s. Books as digital laptop/desktop files would have a weak economic life. There's a closer public eye being put towards e-books, and things like the Long Tail theory and the Espresso Book Machine have been invented with the focus of bringing today's people more access to a wider range of books, although I don't know how that would substantially help if there's no interest books to begin with.
At some point very soon, I hope a renewed interest in reading starts. Not just because I would like to publish some works in the future, but because with an upcoming recession, global warming approaching, and a watered down education in school (my little brother is 11 years old and does not know how to read an analog clock or write in script [which I can suppose is an outdated skill, but how does it hurt to learn it?]), I don't think there's a better time for the widespread interpretation and sharing of ideas. Yes, the digital world is flourishing, and millions of people are blogging, but blogs are not really a structured basis for information, rather than a national forum that allows Bob in New York to read about Sally in California's day at work. I think being more vividly aware of politics, technology, the environment, transportation, business, the sciences, etc. through the reading of non-fiction and fiction would spark a consciousness and a move towards productivity in all aspects. Of course, there will be conflict, as there always is, but that is better than the future we seem to have now, which is a rapid descent towards general stupidity and environmental disaster.