Reading and taste in Enlightenment Europe

I recently read through James Van Horn Melton's fascinating study on reading habits in Enlightenment Europe. Cheaper books and increased levels of literacy contributed to a fundamental shift in how and what people read during the 18th Century. He summarises this shift as one from 'intensive' to 'extensive' reading; i.e. whereas previously people would only possessed a very small number of books (such as the Bible, an almanac or whatever) which they would refer to regularly, they would now have access to a wider range of books which they would consult less frequently. Melton suggests that this change in reading practices also led to a change in patterns of thought; confronted with a greater variety of ideas, people now had the chance to pick between them, developing a more critical attitude towards texts than had previously been normal.  Importantly, the type of books consumed also changed dramatically, most significantly in the decreasing proportion of religious books produced and sold. Popular in France during this period were pornographic novels satirising the alleged sexual habits of the monarchy. Interestingly, while early Enlightenment thinkers greeted the development of mass reading with enthusiasm, it was not long before thinkers were bemoaning the contents of the masses bedside tables. Bergk in 1799 wrote: 

"Reading should be a pedagogical path to autonomy, but for most it is a sleeping potion. Reading should emancipate us, but for how many is it nothing more than a source of entertainment that keeps us in a state of perpetual dependence?"  

 On the other side of the equation, some thinkers feared that fictional novels had brought about the French Revolution by making readers dissatisfied with their current reality. Women in particular occupied the minds of commentators, who feared that women, by reading romantic novels would become sentimental and discontented with their present lot, or would develop sexual appetites that their husbands would not be able to match.  Melton argues that this contradiction between the potentials thinkers saw in reading, and people's actual reading practices led to a growing suspicion and disdain for 'the public' among intellectuals. This disdain led to a turn from rationalism towards Romanticism, which placed its hopes in an abstract realm of 'pure art'.