Paper books see a resurgence as digital readers decline

Updated 2017-08-10 13:31:21 Global Times

More readers are returning to paper books, an annual reading report released by the Shanghai Press and Publication Administration at the 2017 Shanghai Book Fair, revealed based on a survey of 4,000 people.

Starting in 2012, the report covers Shanghai readers' yearly reading interests, time and frequency, their preference for reading forms as well as how much they spend on books.

The report showed that the number of readers choosing digital devices as their first option fell for the first time in three years. Over 46 percent surveyed chose paper books as their first option versus 21 percent who preferred digital devices.

The average number of paper books (excluding journals and textbooks) read by Shanghai residents was 6.64, keeping balance with last year's figure, while the number for groups aged from 7 to 18 was 9.52. Nationwide, the number of people reading paper books in Shanghai is still at the forefront, according to the report.

The preference for paper books is in line with the need for deep reading, said the report. Over 18 percent said they chose paper books for deep reading and 14.06 percent preferred it for its convenience.

The preference for paper books is also a result of its perceived comfort. Close to 59 percent of those surveyed believed paper books offer a better reading experience, as digital reading is often blamed for eyestrain, misleading audiences with unfiltered information and an inadequacy in fine reading.

Those who spent their free time reading books increased 3.17 percent after two years of decline, while those who spent more time on digital reading fell 7.16 points from last year, which reflects the resurgence of book reading in the past year, said the report.

Changes in readers' tastes, government subsidies for bookstores as well as the increasing number of literary events are contributing to the resurgence of book reading, Wu Donghai, director of policy and regulations department at Shanghai Press and Publication Administration, told the Global Times.

"We predict that paper reading and digital reading is going to become a seesaw game," said Wu.

Hesitate to pay

Chen Zeling, a student in Shanghai who reads about 12 books per year, mostly novels, and spends 2 to 3 hours per day reading, told the Global Times that that she prefers to read real books because it is easier for her to take notes or view her favorite passages later.

"I bought a Kindle device last year and enjoyed reading on it on my way to school every day. But for books with good pictures such as art books, I will certainly buy paper books," she said.

According to the survey, a majority of readers spent 30 minutes on reading, with 29.22 percent spending 15 to 30 minutes reading, 22.48 percent spending 30 minutes to 60 minutes and 16.50 percent spending less than 15 minutes on reading per day.

In comparison, 25.21 percent of those surveyed spent 15 to 30 minutes, 24.30 percent spent 30 to 60 minutes, and 19 percent spent 1 to 2 hours on digital reading per day. Spending on paper books and a willingness to pay for digital reading have also increased, said the report. Around 40 percent are willing to pay less than 500 yuan (.63) per year on real books.

In contrast, over half expected to read free content on digital devices, followed by 14 percent who said they would spend less than 20 yuan and 7 percent who would spend over 100 yuan on digital reading.

Though the number of people choosing free content surpassed that of the latter options combined, it has declined by 2 percent compared with last year.

"I hesitate to pay for digital reading, because we can always get free sources by searching on the Internet," said Chen.

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