I know they’re out there. They have to be. They must be. Circumstantial evidence exists that other Readers are out there somewhere, somewhere on the fruited plain or hiding between purple mountains in all their majesty, in a burg or town or village from sea to shining sea.

I rarely encounter actual, breathing Readers except on a few Facebook posts with a minority of my more than 400 friends. But Readers must exist. I see solid evidence and not merely circumstantial clues in comments from these Facebook Reader friends, most of whom I’ve never met in the real world.

Barnes & Noble is still in business and whenever I venture into one I see thousands upon thousands of books on all topics.

So somebody must shop in the national bookstore chain for something other than skinny lattes and blueberry muffins.

And many of those somebodies must purchase books

Apparently.

And some must be actual Readers.

When I’m the recipient of Barnes & Noble gift cards at Christmas or on my birthday I use them to purchase actual books, the print version and not the e-book version. I don’t even know how to turn e-readers on let alone use them with any comfort.

I see other people browsing the Barnes & Noble aisles, picking up books, perusing them, feeling the heft of the book in their hands and even lining up and paying for them.

The evidence of the existence of American Readers is also abundant whenever I venture into one of the two branches of the Lee County Library system I frequent. I see Readers in the downtown Fort Myers branch, people picking up a book and reading a bit to see if it suits their taste and mood.

But as I go about my usual routines of working from a Starbucks or Barnes & Noble or going anywhere, it’s very rare to encounter Readers. Oh, I do but not often. And I try not to mention books and authors around most people.

Why? Most people don’t read and don’t care about books.

I guess my definition of Reader might be helpful.

I capitalize the word for a reason. To me there are readers and then there are Readers.

A reader with a lower case “r” is somebody who reads the occasional book and has a mild curiosity in literature or history.

Then there are the Readers with a capital “R,” folks such as me, people who never go more than a day between books. These are people who take books with them wherever they go, people who insist on sharing what they’ve read with a mostly indifferent Facebook universe.

That’s me.

Two of my Facebook Reader friends are folks I’ve met only in the virtual world, my cousin Rita in Baltimore and Craig Pittman, an author and Tampa Bay Times columnist.

I’m sitting in a corner of a south Fort Myers Starbucks at the moment typing on this post and if either Rita or Craig walked in and sat down next to me I wouldn’t recognize them. But we share book comments and suggestions.

Readers must be more than theoretical possibilities. Why else would The New York Times publish a book review section every Sunday? Why else would publishers purchase lavish ads in that section?

Somebody else out there is a Reader. Many somebodies. They must be out there somewhere on the fruited plain, somewhere among the purple mountains and between the shining seas, in burgs and towns and villages.

Somewhere.

But I very rarely encounter these rare and perhaps endangered creatures, the Readers.