This began as a comment on Darla D's blog, but as per usual, I kept rambling on and didn't want to inflict such a laborious comment on her blog. So, here's my response:
i really liked this post. the arguement of "no time" is weak, but i'm going to play devil's advocate here. and this will be - as everyone else's - from my own experience and from what i observe of others.
first off: public transportation is the best gift to reading ever. i read more when i commute like that. but most people in this country drive in to work, and you can't do both at once.
secondly, reading is an active activity. it requires attention that TV or Music does not demand. for myself, i simply cannot read a book when there is background noise or human distractions like conversation or homelife going on in the background. i can read newspaper or magazine articles with those distractions going, but if it's something i HAVE to know (like for school) or i WANT to enjoy (like a novel), it's impossible. i know many people can, and i try, but it's basically impossible for me to shut out the juicy convo at the table behind me or the TV show in front of me. you really can't passively read. and for a lot of people who've knocked out 8 to 10 hours at the office, dealt with traffic in and out and nagging kids when they get home, the last thing they want to do is actively focus on anything. it's shameful and they should be flogged publicly, i know, but mental exhaustion leads them to the TV and it's just a habit. that's something i like about audiobooks. it's been a while since i've listened to one, but you get the same text, and you can listen in your car, while you do laundry or if your job is mindless enough, you can listen at work.
i also wonder if people also go in cycles. i commented to a coworker once that sometimes i'll go through phases that last months or a year where all i want to do is nothing but read, then all i'll want to do is write, other times, both ... and then there are times when i just want to play and daydream. i'm always reading magazines and newspapers, but when it comes to books, i've also noticed that when i'm wrapped up in school, i'm less eager to pick one up. when you do nothing but read for evaluation, then it becomes a chore. it's like a good friend of mine who's a TV producer. he watches TV, but not nearly as much as one "should" to stay on top of what's going on in the industry. ... i wish i could say that bringing my textbooks with me on my commute force me to read them. usually what happens with me is i have my text, plus a newspaper plus a fun book. guess which i avoid! and when i have only my text with me, depending on how much i want to avoid it, i begin to daydream or plan future vacations. there's still mental activity going on even if it's not being agitated by text.
you make a good point that one should stop after X number of pages if a book sucks. but aside from the curiosity one feels about wanting to know how it ends, despite the suckiness, i wonder if there's just also a commitment factor. do you REALLY want to be the person who didn't finish a book? there's a high school english teacher inside all of us who chastizes us when we don't spell correctly or misuse grammar or choose the wrong books to read or don't read enough or well enough or fast enough, or, or, or .... even if it doesn't change our habits, she's there. i know she is, because friends and family of mine who don't spell well are haunted by her. i like reading, i consider myself a reader, but as at least half of my friends are the kinds who devour books like blood-thirsty raptors, where i'm content to graze. particularly because i'm not a fast reader so i want the book to be worth my time. and the english teacher haunts me there and makes me feel like a dumb-ass knuckle-dragger.
but your overall point of it comes down to priorities is absolutely right. it's like that with everything in life. i once had a friend who told me her parents didn't take her to church because they thought it was too boring. then why send her to school? school for both of us was terribly boring. because - laws aside - school was the priority in the house, not church. "i don't have time" is not an arguement, just like "it's boring" isn't. so the challenge then becomes getting people not only to prioritize reading for leisure, but convincing them that reading IS leisurely. i really think the biggest obstacle is mental exhaustion. there's a reason people keep books by their beds. it's the last quiet refuge at the end of a busy day in an increasingly hectic world.