Read more books? Singapore adults prefer TV

Author Gwee Li Sui with members of the public during the NLB’s Read! Fest 2017 at the National Library Building yesterday.
Author Gwee Li Sui with members of the public during the NLB’s Read! Fest 2017 at the National Library Building yesterday. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Most adult Singaporeans read more than once a week - but it is not books which they spend time on but news, both print and online.

An inaugural study on reading habits by the National Library Board (NLB) yesterday threw up some interesting figures, including how older people tend to read as part of their morning routine, while younger people preferred to read while commuting.

The study, which was conducted from May 4 to Aug 5 last year, surveyed around 3,500 participants aged 20 years and above.

Some 80 per cent of adults said they read more than once a week. Nearly seven in 10 of this group said news was their top reading material. Just two in 10 said their reading included books, including e-books.

When asked what stopped them from reading more books, those surveyed highlighted that they preferred watching TV and online videos.

Nearly all readers said they read non-fiction as it served "practical purposes". But there was a clear difference among the sexes.

The men were more inclined towards health, Singapore and politics. While women were also interested in health, they were more focused on travel and cooking.

  • WHAT ARE ADULTS READING MORE THAN ONCE A WEEK?

  • 68%

    Reading news (print or digital).

  • 41%

    Reading articles on social media/websites.

  • 19% 

    Reading books, including e-books.

Fewer than six in 10 of the people who read at least once a week picked up fiction.

Student Ng Hong Yi, 21, told The Straits Times that he reads news to keep " myself updated with what is going on around the world". He said he did not read books and e-books often, due to lack of time.

On Singaporeans' seeming lack of interest in fiction, Associate Professor Kirpal Singh from Singapore Management University, who specialises in English literature, felt that it is "worrying".

He said: "Life is more than just being practical, and reading fiction stimulates one's imagination, with the fun, wit and humour in it."

Prof Singh also added that even though many people do read the news, they tend to scan through it rather than reading in depth, citing his students as an example.

The study was released yesterday at the launch of Read! Fest 2017 - the NLB's reading festival.

At the event, the public got the chance to meet Singapore authors such as Gwee Li Sui and Suchen Christine Lim. The festival, on till July 29, aims to encourage Singaporeans to read books by local authors and also widely in their mother tongue languages.

Sean Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Read more books? S'pore adults prefer TV'. Print Edition | Subscribe