More people are literate than ever before, buying books hand over fist, while circulations of magazines and newspapers are up too.
People join book clubs in droves, Richard and Judy and Oprah promote new books on TV, and new technology is apparently about to Kindle a new love affair with e-books.
So do we really need a National Year of Reading sponsored by the government and a host of other organisations?
At the same time as we celebrate books and reading, however, we wonder if we are reading the right things, with celebrity chefs and Harry Potter topping the bestseller lists.
Are we making enough time for Cervantes, Milton and Joyce?
Is it elitist to distinguish between good and bad literature, or have we simply lost the confidence to tell the difference?
Meanwhile, some observers worry that while women can’t get enough, young men have little interest in reading, and debates still rage about the right age to get children started.
What is at stake in debates about reading today?- Battle of Ideas
Born in 1954 in Kolkata, Swapan Chakravorty worked on the plays of Thomas Middleton for his doctoral work at Oxford. He is author of Society and Politics in the Plays of Thomas Middleton (Clarendon press, 1996), and is contributing editor of the Oxford edition of Middleton's Collected Works (2007).
Chakravorty has written two books in Bengali, and has edited volumes on book history in English (Print Areas, 2004) and Bengali. His papers and essays have appeared in journals and newspapers in the USA, England, Scotland, Malaysia, Canada and Bangladesh.
Chakravorty is Professor of English at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and has also taught at Universiti Malaya and Calcutta University, and delivered the Strode Renaissance Lectures at the University of Alabama in 2005. He has been delegate at the Tenth SAARC Writers' Conference and the Edinburgh Book Festival.
Shirley Dent is Communications Director for the Institute of Ideas, the Battle of Ideas and development editor of Culture Wars, the reviews website of the Institute of Ideas.
Shirley researched the editorial and bibliographic history of William Blake's works for her PhD, and co-authored a book on the subject with Jason Whittaker, Radical Blake: Afterlife and Influence from 1827. She is writing an essay on the critic and editor Anne Gilchrist for the collection Women Read William Blake: 'Opposition is True Friendship.'
Previously, Dent was assistant editor of the New Humanist magazine, and Head of Communications at the Policy Studies Institute.
Philip Hensher is a writer whose novels include Kitchen Venom, which won the Somerset Maugham award, The Mulberry Empire, and most recently The Northern Clemency shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, with the winner to be announced in October.
Hensher was was among Granta 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. Hensher is a columnist for the Independent as well as Professor of Creative Writing at Exeter University.
Nicolette Jones is a writer and freelance journalist who has worked for national newspapers and the book trade press. She is the children's books reviewer for The Sunday Times, and collaborated with Raymond Briggs on an overview of his work, Blooming Books, published by Jonathan Cape in 2003.
She chaired the committee that chose the 2005-7 Children's Laureate, was a judge of the Orange Prize in 2003, and is a trustee of The Reading Agency. She is also on the board of the National Maritime Museum's Library Appeal, and a judge of the 2007 Branford Boase Award and the Macmillan Prize. She was educated at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, and Yale University, where she was a Henry Fellow in the Graduate School of English.
Her book about the Victorian philanthropist Samuel Plimsoll and his campaign on behalf of sailors, The Plimsoll Sensation, was published on 22nd June 2006, and won the 2006 Mountbatten Maritime Prize.
Angus Kennedy, head of external relations for the Institute of Ideas, for which he programs the annual Battle of Ideas Festival in London and its international satellite events. He is the convenor of the institute’s new initiative The Academy and chairs its Economy Forum. Kennedy writes for publications including spiked and Culture Wars on subjects such as the Holocaust, classics, culture and the arts, economics, and moral philosophy. He is also a member of the European Cultural Parliament (ECP).
Following a degree in English and History at Goldsmiths College, Honor Wilson-Fletcher worked with a succession of booksellers and publishers in a variety of roles as bookseller at both Books Etc and Waterstone's, as Head of PR at Waterstone's, Associate publisher at Transworld, Sales and Marketing Director at Hodder Children's Books and in both sales and marketing roles at Penguin.
She also had a stint online with BOL.com, before joining the British Museum as Head of Marketing. Prior to joining the NYR she was Director of Marketing at the Southbank Centre working on the re-launch of Royal Festival Hall and the reinvigoration of the whole Southbank Centre site.