Reading only during their spare time – that was what many adult and teenaged Singaporeans did last year, according to a 2021 study by the National Library Board (NLB).
While this is encouraging, paper books are losing their standing with this group of readers who prefer whetting their literary appetite digitally.
The NLB’s 2021 National Reading Habits Study showed that 95 per cent of adults last year read in their spare time more than once a week. This is an increase from 88 per cent in 2018.
Teens, too, read more for leisure, with 86 per cent of older teenagers doing so more than once a week – a slightly higher percentage than the 2018’s figure of 83 per cent.
While the majority of adults surveyed read the news or articles online more than once a week, only 34 per cent read books during that same length of time.
Seventy-three per cent of older teenagers read articles on social media or websites more than once a week, a rise from 64 per cent in 2018; but the proportion who read books for leisure more than once a week remained unchanged at 30 per cent.
Digital books are slowly killing the paperbacks
But the popularity of paperbacks and hard copy books have waned as many turn to the digital space and devices like the kindle for their reading pleasure.
Among adults who read books in 2021, almost 3 in 5 (58 per cent) read at least one e-book – up from 55 per cent in 2018. But there is a drop among the older teenagers, dropping from 64 per cent in 2018 to 60 per cent last year.
A new question was added to the survey last year to include video-streaming platforms. It found that 91 per cent of adults and 96 per cent of older teenagers used such platforms for pleasure, while 81 per cent of adults and 85 per cent of older teenagers used these platforms to keep up with current events.
NLB surveyed a total of 3,774 Singapore residents between July and December 2021 using both online and door-to-door interviews. It included a disclaimer that fieldwork for the teenage groups was not completed because of the Covid-19 safe management measures and that while those samples are not fully representative, the findings for older teenagers are “largely representative”.
NLB Chief Executive Officer Ng Cher Pong, said: “It is encouraging to see that reading and learning are constants for most Singaporeans. The survey also shows that there is growing preference for digital content, especially among youths. Under LAB25 (Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025), we are evolving and enhancing NLB’s omni-channel service offerings, which will enable our patrons – both young and old – to continue reading and learning anytime and anywhere.”
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