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Most people prefer not to read, survey shows

File photos shows bookworms inside the public library at the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah.

By Ali Fayyaz / 05 Nov 2013

The technological boom has had a negative impact on reading habits.

A survey recently conducted by Arab News revealed that only two in ten people read on a regular basis. The survey also revealed that 80 percent of individuals do not read during their free time.

One 28-year-old Saudi girl says:“People around the globe, especially in Saudi Arabia, are not encouraged to read from a young age. Most people barely read newspaper headlines.”

In fact, the survey, which included students, doctors, engineers, accountants, computer programmers and salesmen from Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Dammam, revealed that most people preferred to use the Internet, watch TV, hang out with friends or play games on their smart devices.

Irshad Salim, a Riyadh-based business analyst, said:“Peoples’ lack of interest in reading is a marketing issue, not just a social or cultural phenomenon.”

Ahsia Yousaf, a Dammam-based school teacher, said:“The Saudi government should act on the rapid decline of reading habits among children. Most children spend their free time surfing the web or playing games, while many others think that reading consumes more time than getting a quick synopsis off the web. There is an urgent need to promote and cultivate reading habits among children, teenagers and professionals.”

Muhammad Amir, a Jeddah-based computer programmer, said:“There is a shift away from books because most literature prescribed by universities is now available in PDF format or on CD. Students don’t even take notes anymore because lecture notes are being made available online.”

Hadiya Sheikh, a 15-year-old school-going girl, said: “I play games or watch movies during my free time. I used to read novels but now find screen adaptations more interesting.”

The advent of smart phones and personal laptops has made books downloadable.
Muhammad Ibrar, a Riyadh-based Pakistani intellectual, said: “There are many popular Arabic classics that are being overshadowed by pop culture shows and movies.”

“Traditional books in print form remain the most reliable source of information among students,” he said.

Many salesmen at supermarkets and bookstores that sell newspapers, magazines, novels and forms of literature have also revealed that their sales have gone down due to a general lack of demand on printed items.

The average Arab child reads only “six minutes” a year in comparison to Western children, who average around 12,000 minutes a year.

An adult in the Arab world reads on average a quarter of a page a year compared to an American adult, who reads around 11 books, or a British adult, who reads about seven.

Farooq Hassan, a business development director in the Central Province, said: “People strongly believe they can learn from the Internet, social media and channels to boost their knowledge, yet books no doubt provide a deeper level of information,” he said.


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