Think about it:
There is no collective noun or concept for readers corresponding to ‘audience.’ The collective ‘readership’ — this magazine has a readership of two million — is a far-gone abstraction. To think of readers as a united group, we have to fall back on calling them an ‘audience,’ as thought they were in fact listeners.
—Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. 1982. New York: Routledge, 2009. Pg. 73
Reading—for avid readers, at least—necessitates an active role not addressed by the passive noun “audience.” The act of reading is different from the act of watching. (So-called) “real” readers inhabit a book and live within it during the reading process.
The publishing industry relies on selling to this group and, yet, we have no name for them. If the future of publishing is, as many smart minds seem to be saying, contingent upon reaching out to niche communities of readers, wouldn’t the first step be coming up with a word for that group?
Any suggestions? I’d love to hear them.