It says a lot about Malaysia when in a population of 25 million, the local book industry can only print 1,000 to 3,000 copies per general titlesays Law King Hui, president of the Malaysian Book Publishers Association, while the figures about readership seem to be as depressing as ever. According to the article:
A survey conducted in 1996 showed that Malaysians read an average of two books a year. … The results of a survey in 2005 show that things have not improved at all – many still read only two books a year. About 98% of 10-year olds read only two books a year, with 60.4% citing other interests and 28.7% lack of time as the reason.Now, it seems to me that while there is much hand-wringing about the problems, those with the wherewithal to take action seem depressingly stumped for ideas about how to get the nation reading.
While the cost of books is a problem and any initiative to bring down prices is to be welcomed, there is an even bigger need to change mindsets. Law is certainly on the right page when he says that many not only have no interest in reading but also no inkling of what to buy, how to read or what to read.
Throw as much money at reading campaigns as you like, sell books at knockdown prices and make them available on every street corner. But nothing will happen without a concerted effort to help non-readers and marginal readers find their way into books they will enjoy.