GALO: Not going off track from the previous question, your documentary also mentions the fact that less and less Americans are reading to their children. In your opinion, isn’t it important that parents read to their children on a consistent basis? After all, I think parents are one of the more important figures in a child’s life, the influencers so to speak, and by reading to them they encourage them to read books as well as develop a love for them. Secondly, where do you think the problem stems from that parents today are reading less and less to their children?

VR: I agree with Maryanne Wolf’s comment that reading to your children is the most important thing that you can do to help them grow up to become readers and critical thinkers. There are undoubtedly many different reasons that parents read less frequently to children, if they read to them at all, and I am not aware of scholarly literature that goes beyond the simple statistics, but some likely causes are obvious: families with two working parents have less time and energy. Some parents may believe that children are better off playing with electronic devices from a young age rather than being read to. And, of course, if adults are reading less, and are constantly distracted by their own gadgets, they will probably be less likely to read to their children. I heard a very educated parent admit that he spends more time on Twitter than reading to his two-year old! One of the cognitive scientists I interviewed emphasized how important social referencing is to children, and this requires real engagement; reading is a wonderful way to engage.

GALO: Do you also think that parents are being too lenient nowadays, allowing their children to have access to a lot of technology from iPads to iPhones to gaming devices. Sure, there is the argument that if they don’t get it at home, they’ll get it elsewhere, such as at their friend’s house or even in school, but shouldn’t there be a limit on these things? After all, if they’re taught at home that technology is simply a tool, not a way of life, then maybe there is a chance that they can learn to live without it; and shouldn’t society know how to also not rely on technology (what happens when things shut down because of power outages — can people no longer work, students cannot do their homework, etc.)?

VR: Yes. I thought it was rather poignant that one of the students commented that she wished that her mom would shut off Facebook when she does her homework, like her friend’s mom; she can’t do it herself. One of the college students, in a clip that I did not include, commented on the persistent distractions in simply reading a newspaper online. The number of hours that our young people spend in front of screens, which totals 116 full days a year on entertainment, almost none of which is spent reading, should make every parent think about how children are using electronic media. Parents can act with conviction when limiting screen time. You are correct about the need not to rely completely on technology. We had a great example when Wikipedia shut down for a day in protest to SOPA. The tweets that were posted in reaction to not having Wikipedia available to complete assignments were distressing, both in number and content. The way in which Wikipedia chose to protest was equally distressing, and points to the issue of control of information that several participants raised. Shutting down a source of information is censorship. I would have preferred a campaign on their pages expressing their views, which is probably an even more effective persuasion tool in any event.

GALO: Many publishers do not like Amazon; in essence, they feel quite strongly about their pricing methods as well as their publishing ventures. What prompted you to include their opinion in the documentary, and how do you think Amazon will revolutionize book publishing, especially with the recent DOJ settlement case between Amazon and the big six publishers and their purchase of Goodreads? Do they stand a chance as a publisher?

VR: Amazon, because of its marketing methods, has been a major force in changing the economics of the publishing industry. You can’t address books and publishing without including Amazon in the conversation. The DOJ case was an antitrust suit against Apple and the major publishers over a price-setting model for electronic books, and the publishers have all settled and cannot set retail prices; Amazon was not a party to the suit, but the result is that Amazon is again free to price e-books as it wishes. The publishers can, of course, continue to determine the price at which they will sell to Amazon. Amazon’s publishing venture thus far has mostly been to serve as an outlet for self-published works, and the company seems to be doing an effective job in that arena; note Darcie Chan’s very positive comments about Amazon’s importance to the success of her self-published novel (although she chose to publish her next books commercially). It is too early to tell if Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads, which is a very valuable asset to the reading public, will have any effect, but Amazon has stated that Goodreads will not change, and one can only hope that that will be true.

GALO: You focus in on bookstores in your documentary, such as one of my personal favorites, Strand. Do you think that bookstores will gradually disappear altogether or will they just take on a different form, much like libraries are doing so today?

VR: I love bookstores, and I am encouraged whenever I see an article about a new bookstore opening, which does happen from time to time, but the reality is that the local bookstore is not a viable economic entity in most cases. As Fred Bass from Strand said, “you can’t compete with Amazon and Google,” and he expects the bookstore to become a curiosity. This isn’t just because of electronic books, of course; lots of people buy traditional books from online retailers or “big box” stores as well, and this pattern has been a major factor in the economics of local bookstores. It is hard to imagine what new form the local bookstore could adopt, unlike the library.

GALO: I am curious as to what you think about the impact that technology is having on social interaction, especially among young adults and children? Do you find that technology is helping people interact with one another more, or is it putting a barrier into physical interaction as people rely more and more on their technological devices and lose that personal connectivity in the process?

VR: Social media have had both a negative and a positive effect in general, and on young people in particular: The positive is that people do connect frequently, and real friends (as opposed to Internet “friends”) do keep in touch on a regular basis. But I believe that the negative outweighs the positive because, as you note, it does insert a real barrier into personal interaction, as well as being a constant distraction. The exchange of sequences of short pithy comments can mask feelings and turn “conversation” into a simple exchange of facts. The eyes are a subtle and reliable source of truth and information, but even over the telephone it was possible to pick up nuance. A lot is lost when personal contact is absent.

GALO: How do you see the future of publishing in general? What about in terms of book publishing, magazine publishing?

VR: I am an optimist. Even with declining numbers there are still lots of people who love to read, and great new books continue to be published. We are in the midst of major changes in the economics of publishing, and it is not clear what ultimate book publishing model will finally emerge, but I am confident that it will be one that will enable writers to make their work available to readers who are willing to pay for the opportunity to read, and that traditional books will be part of the mix. It is worth noting that the most avid e-book readers also read traditional books. Magazine publishing has been migrating to electronic media, and I suspect that the day will come when the paper magazine is a rarity. The crucial outcome, which we must work to ensure, is that we maintain and expand diversity of expression through a variety of media. Freedom of expression is at the core of democracy, but freedom of expression without a means to ensure access and livelihood is not viable.

“Out of Print” is currently screening nationwide across various film festivals, inclusive of the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival and the Manhattan Film Festival in June 2013. For a full schedule, please visit

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Featured image: “Out of Print” film director: Vivienne Roumani. Photo Credit: Tom Geyer.