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Shelve This Reading Study

When it comes to buying books, Los Angeles residents make up one of the biggest markets in the country. But in truth, a University of Wisconsin chancellor now tells us, the city ranks way down at 54th in terms of metropolises where people value reading.

Then again, if you believe this fusty professor, you should read his “study” more closely.

Jack Miller, who heads Wisconsin’s satellite Whitewater campus, made up his own rules about what makes for a literary-minded city, and with his academic outlook, you can bet his criteria reflect a certain slant. He really ought to yank the ivy off his tower so he can look out his western window at the real world.

A favorite example: More points go to cities where residents hold college degrees. By Miller’s reckoning, it doesn’t matter if you’re a high-school grad who cleans out the library shelves of good books each week. No college degree, no reading points.

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Miller counts the number of bookstores, too. Not the number of books people buy there. Just the number of stores.

On top of that, the chancellor apparently has never heard of Amazon.com and the online shopping phenomenon. Tsk, tsk. Someone hasn’t been keeping up with his reading.

True, with its vast population of immigrants who might have had little opportunity for schooling in their native countries, Los Angeles has a large number of adults for whom reading is a challenge. Volunteers and school-based courses work hard to help them gain literacy -- but those don’t count in Miller’s mind.

At least Wisconsin doesn’t seem to be having a huge state budget problem, since its college chancellors have time to dream up silly studies and hunt down misleading data to back their conclusions.

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Los Angeles, not nearly as snobbish as Miller, welcomes him to visit the annual Times-sponsored Festival of Books, taking place every April. Tens of thousands of people each year drive miles and even take public transportation to buy, read and talk about books. Oh, sorry. Book festivals aren’t in the study.


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