I've heard various speculations out there that poor economic times might just be good for literature, as folks choose to forgo that next expensive video game or flat screen whatever for a good book. According to bookninja.com, library use is on the rise and used book sales are also climbing (less impact on the bottom line for publishers and authors, of course, but still).
Now the National Endowment for the Arts in the U.S. is making a bold claim about the state of reading in that country. I'm coming at this report a bit late, but running on the idea that good news has a long shelf life I present to you Reading on the Rise, the NEA's recent report showing that "literary reading is on the rise for the first time in the 26 years of the NEA's periodic survey..."
I heard an interesting discussion of this report on NPR over the weekend (love that streaming Internet radio) in which it was suggested that the NEA's stats may reflect their own reluctant acceptance of online reading as "literary," but as long as the methodology is sound who really cares? After decades of chilling "books are dead" predictions, this report is like that first warm breeze of springtime.