Posted on 2013-Jan-04
Thai Reading Infatuation?
The Nation Newspaper sketches the rough picture of how Thai readers respond to the rise of tablets and eReaders. Having said that, I echoed the same sentiment in previous blogs how the smartphone owner, which likely represents the majority of gadgets in Thailand, open themselves to the freedom of surfing infotainment rather than indulging in passionate reading.
Updating Facebook statuses every minute is seen as a culturally inherited phenomenon that smartphone owners can get the most out of pricey gadgets. Tablets users tend to be more game-oriented with fruit finger-slashing and birds slingshot-launching. It might be alarming to hear how an estimated small fraction 1.5 million Thai readers out of the entire population of 60 million “flip pages.” The main purpose of mobile connectivity does allow Thais to adopt the socializing addiction to check in at their favorite restaurants, pose awkwardly at exotic tourist attractions, and bury themselves in addictive touch-typing to kill the time.
Reading Statistics from Neighboring Countries
Back in November, the same online newspaper reported the astounding statistics how most Malaysians, Singaporeans, and Vietnamese read books at a greater frequency. Their reading capacity is 40 books per year, 45, and 60 respectively. Thai reading statistics should be hidden away from this blog to protect the comparison yet you can find the result here to see the unmatchable difference. In 2011, the Thai government spent a huge amount of its budget to stir small impact on National Reading Day. Unfortunately, I could not confirm the success of such a withering implementation of the program of which could not be found even inside the official website. One piece of dated information from the Government Public Relations Department website shows Education Ministry presiding over mobile libraries that were supposed to mobilize reading capability, reading habits, and learning.
Appealing Covers and Fun Cartoons
The President of Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand (PUBAT), Worapan Lokitsataporn, expressed concern over the decreasing average read by Thais. For entertainment purposes, mobile devices seem to be the ideal solution. Popular genres of reading are very limited at this stage but appealing covers with fun story plots factor in topping the bestsellers list. Cartoons are the new hope that young children will adopt reading as their main passion soon as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has hoped for. The writer urges authorities to subsidize certain types of books to widen the distribution to general readers. Of course a subsidization scheme might have as much luck as the rice subsidy plan did (i.e. a bit of a fiasco).
Massive Digital Downloads
If the government can launch free bus schemes for passengers, can they possibly offer free books to mass readers whether in print or digital publication to boost reading habit? Manote Tripathi voices his sentiment in Easy E-Books that the sales of Kindles in Thailand do not go anywhere because of inconvenience. However, 300,000 downloads per month are more than enough to drive digital content sales and energize publishers and independent writers who have great potentials. Hopefully, the massive download tendency will induct eBooks sales in their Hall of Fame one day. Although the government is facing an uphill battle encouraging Thai people to flip more pages, I propose that reading passion needs to be instilled in the student’s intuition and even adults’ mentality to utilize books in a more common way.
Reminiscing on Cultural Lessons
Now that the digital era has facilitated us in acquiring limitless content for infotainment, users of multi-tasking devices are equipped with global resources to catch up with latest advancements. They should be aware of the powerful tools lying in their hands. With countless new information and pictures social media have birthed, how can one possibly digest the useful information to their advantage? If those inventions and messages are desirable, we have to find more information to transform them into something relevant to the current society yet influential enough to offer something new. True readers should not be desensitized by continually updated information. Franz Kafka said, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” Reading will teach them how to handle those pieces of information from different sources and select what best suits their identity and capacity. No matter what the technological innovation has benefited our entertaining satisfaction, reading is seen as one way for Thais to learn new lessons and set the ideal example of what direction young students should follow.
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