Thais read books for 28 minutes a day, says Pubat

Put children in a bookstore and they read. But in general, Thais don't seem to read nearly enough. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Thais face a sharp decline in book reading rates, particularly among older people and the uneducated, as time spent reading books is increasingly used for online media.

Thais spent an average of 28 minutes a day reading books last year, down from 37 minutes in 2013 and 30-59 minutes in 2000, reported a joint reading rate survey by the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (Pubat) and Chulalongkorn University's economics faculty.

The survey had 3,500 respondents. Some 88% read books, but only 42% read books more than three days a week. One in 10 said they did not read any books.

Some 63% reported they had no time to read, 29.5% said they suffered eyesight problems, and 25.7% did not like reading.

People under 20 spent the most time reading, but the material was mostly cartoons and tutorial books.

The elderly and those with low education levels reported spending the least time reading books.

Most Thais spend about 30 minutes reading at home during the day or before going to bed. They like to read books for entertainment and education.

Cartoons and illustrated fiction are the most popular content, followed by health and cuisine, history, Thai novels and tourism.

Pubat president Charun Hormtienthong said Thais should be encouraged to read more.

"We urge the government to encourage Thais to read more and help to promote the book industry, as this would drive the country's sustainable development by creating a knowledge-based society," he said.

Pubat said Thais bought four books a year on average.

This is a very low rate, it said, noting that children and teenagers bought nine books a year, of which four were cartoons, three tutorial books and the others informative books.

Some 99% of buyers make their purchases from physical bookstores, with only 1% buying online.

Of the respondents, 99.8% still enjoyed reading physical books, while 24% had shifted to reading both traditional and digital books, said Mr Charun.

Only 16.5% said they would change and buy e-books instead of physical ones.

Mr Charun said almost half of Thais spent less time reading books due to the influence of online media. Thais spend 92 minutes per day on the internet, three times the amount spent reading books.

Old age and education are the main factors influencing the reading behaviour of Thais, while individual income and high book prices are not barriers for Thais to read books, the survey reported.

Students read books after school at a bookstore that provides free reading periods. PATIPAT JANTHONG

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