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(Updated Aug. 24, 2:33 p.m.) - Contrary to what one might think, watching a lot of TV doesn't mean less reading. Results of the 2012 National Book Development Board Readership Survey revealed that the Filipinos who more frequently watch TV are more likely to read non-school books.
"We thought na distractions ang TV, newspapers, radio, videotapes, malling... No. In fact, they enhance. The more frequently you watch TV, read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch videotapes, and go to the mall, the more likely you are to be reading a non-school book," said Linda Luz Guerrero, vice president and chief operating officer of Social Weather Stations (SWS) during the presentation of the 2012 National Book Development Board Readership Survey results on August 22 in Ortigas.
Commissioned by the NBDB, the Social Weather Stations conducted the third NBDB Readership Survey last May, among 1,200 respondents all over the Philippines. "Akala rin natin na 'yung Internet seems to have been a distraction. The data shows it is not a distraction. It has no association. In fact, all Internet users are non-school book readers," Guerrero said.
The survey showed that an average non-school book reader in 2012 started reading at about age 15: younger than in 2007 (16) and 2003 (17). "Tumataas na ‘yung proportion of those reading non-school books at a young age. Ayan 'yung isang magandang nangyayari. Nag-uumpisa na silang magbasa, bata pa lang sila," said Guerrero.
While such findings seem encouraging, the survey also revealed that the proportion of book readers is in decline. During the first survey in 2003, 94 percent read; 90 percent of this 94 percent read books. In 2007, 92 percent read; 83 percent of this 92 percent read books. In 2012, 88 percent read; 80 percent of this 88 percent read books.
Four out of five Filipino adults are readers
For non-school book readers, there was also a decline, with 92 percent (of the 80 percent who read books) in 2012, lower than 96 percent (of the 83 percent who read books) in 2007. But the figure is still higher than during the 2003 survey, when only 76 percent (of the 90 percent who read books) were non-school book readers.
However, SWS noted that this is still high—four out of five Filipino adults are readers.
Most readers have no specific schedule for when they read—81 percent of non-school book readers read anytime they want to. Among those who do have a specific time, almost half, or 46 percent, read before going to sleep.
SWS said that among the demographics, location, educational attainment and civil status were the most important factors affecting non-school book readership.
"The higher your education, the more likely that you will be reading non-school books. The more single you are, the more likely you are to be reading a non-school book," Guerrero said.
As for frequency of reading non-school books, educational attainment, main source of education, and civil status were the most important factors.
About 4.6 hours reading time weekly
The survey said that readers are spending more time with their books—with the average number of hours a week at 4.6 hours, higher than 3.8 hours in 2007, and 4.5 hours in 2003.
On average, a person has read about six books in the past 12 months, while 21 percent did not read any non-school books in the past 12 months, more than 14 percent in 2007, and 17 percent in 2003.
When it comes to choosing books, readers tend to rely on blurbs (44 percent) and word of mouth or recommendations from family or friends (40 percent) for information about books they might buy.
Still, the Bible (58 percent) remains the most popular book read, followed by romance books (25 percent), and cooking books (21 percent).
As for ebooks, only seven percent of book readers are ebook readers. NBDB Executive Director Atty. Andrea Pasion-Flores noted that this is still three million people.
Ebook readership is significantly higher in urban areas, among classes ABC, youth aged 18-24, and college graduates.
The most common device for reading ebooks is a laptop computer, and 90 percent of readers still prefer printed books. In 2007, only 1.2 percent said they had purchased non-school books online.
"The 2012 survey has good news and not so good news, perhaps not making the trends in the country so different from patterns seen in other countries," said NBDB Chair Flor Marie Sta. Romana-Cruz, citing two articles she had read online.
"Both lament the decline in reading," she said, citing Adrian Hon's "The Long Decline of Reading", and one of Hon's bases for his article, the 2007 National Endowment for the Arts study "To Read or Not to Read."
"Among the points highlighted is the general decline across the ages in the reading of literature or challenging text," Cruz said, referring to Hon's work.
"Thinking in reading is just too difficult and books do not offer the instant gratification that they and their peers are in search of," was what a group of girls from a private high school in Manila told Cruz when she asked them what the reasons were for the rise of reluctant readers among their peers.
Filipino books preferred
Former NBDB Chair Dr. Dennis Gonzalez said the NBDB survey provides information that can help NBDB as well as other stakeholders in book development in coming up with programs to encourage Filipinos to read. Gonzalez noted that one interesting point was that people prefer to read in Tagalog or Filipino, according to the three surveys.
"Maybe that's one way we can increase readership. The survey already shows three times, more then 50 percent, people prefer to read in Tagalog or Filipino, and yet when you actually look at Philippine publications it's mostly in English," Gonzalez said.
He also said that the survey is improved through the years, but not all questions are included due to budget constraints.
"Hopefully, with the help of the publishers and all stakeholders in book development we can all come up with programs, plans that would precisely encourage more Filipinos to read and to develop the habit of reading quality reading materials. We need the information so we can use that information in designing programs for that purpose," he said. –KG/ELR, GMA News
The 2012 NBDB Readership Survey results will be available on the National Book Development Board website.