People in Singapore reading more: NLB study

Higher reading rates in 2018 - both in print and digital formats; library e-loans double

The theme of the National Library Board's Read! Fest 2019 is "Voyage" - an exploration of literary topics across time that will uncover Singapore's history and heritage.
The theme of the National Library Board's Read! Fest 2019 is "Voyage" - an exploration of literary topics across time that will uncover Singapore's history and heritage. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

That person staring intently at his tablet on the train may well be reading an e-book, judging by a National Library Board (NLB) survey which showed that e-loans of reading material last year were double that of the previous year.

According to the 2018 National Reading Habits Study, people in Singapore are reading more books, magazines and newspapers - in both print and digital formats. The trend is in part attributable to the popularity of e-books.

E-loans at NLB libraries reached about three million last year, compared with about 1.5 million e-loans in 2017.

Figures released yesterday also showed 88 per cent of adults read more than once a week last year, compared with 80 per cent in 2016, when the last survey was conducted. The reading materials included books, magazines, newspapers and online articles. The trend was reflected in both adults and teenagers aged 13 to 19 years old.

Ms Krist Chan, deputy director (adults and seniors) at NLB's Content and Services Division, said the "skyrocketing" rates of e-loans are down to increasingly digitalised lifestyles, where consumption is influenced by electronic device use.

The survey also found that more are consuming news in print and digital formats. It found that 77 per cent of adult respondents read the news more than once a week, compared with 68 per cent in the 2016 study.

Among teenagers, 40 per cent said they read news articles more than once a week, up from 35 per cent previously.

Secondary 2 student Kow Min Dana Namali, 14, said she started reading The Straits Times and The Washington Post on Instagram when she entered secondary school last year.

"I started following news sites on Instagram when I started secondary school because I felt it was more important for me to keep up with current affairs. Other people around me also felt this need and it was easier for me to take part in conversations," she said.

The survey results were released in conjunction with the launch of the inaugural National Reading Challenge yesterday, which encourages Singaporeans to read more and form a habit of reading.

It is part of NLB's Read! Fest campaign, which is in its sixth iteration and runs till July 28.

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, the guest of honour at the event, said that Read! Fest is "an important long-term mission to encourage reading and learning, especially among younger Singaporeans".

For the National Reading Challenge, those who borrow a book or an e-book from NLB libraries, from today till Sept 8, can win prizes such as computer tablets in a lucky draw.

The top prize is a pair of Singapore Airlines tickets to Brisbane. Readers have to register for the Challenge with their myLibrary ID, a library membership account. More details can be found at

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2019, with the headline People in Singapore reading more: NLB study. Subscribe