Do Pinoys wear the old coat and buy the new book?

Ime Morales

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Feel the pulse of Pinoy readers. The results of the 2012 NBDB Readership Survey is out.

THE JOY OF READING. The Bible still reigns supreme. Screen grab from YouTube (The Joy of Books)

MANILA, Philippines – I am a slow reader.

I savor the words, let phrases linger longer in the mouth.

But I read several books at a time.

Sometimes, 5 or 6. Sometimes, more.

I cannot read before going to bed because it makes me sleepy, even if the book’s a thriller.

The best reading time for me would be in the early morning, during waiting time or while on travel. 

These are some of my reading habits and behavior. And if you’re a smart book writer or publisher, you will find a way to get your hands on facts that pertain to your market’s reading attitudes and practices.

LINDA LUZ B. GUERRERO, VP and COO of Social Weather Stations (SWS) presents the results of the National Book Development Board (NBDB) Readership Survey

If publishers and writers knew, for instance, that there is more demand for books written in local dialects, then they can (and they should) produce more books that will cater to this need.

This is the aim of the National Book Development Board (NBDB) Readership Survey of 2012. In partnership with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) and Vibal Foundation, NBDB commissioned the Social Weather Stations (SWS) to conduct a survey among Filipino readers to determine reading behavior and habits.

The results were presented to an audience composed mainly of book publishers in August in Pasig.

Why the book writers were not there is a whole story on its own, worthy of a separate write-up.

Since March 2003, NBDB has been conducting what NBDB chair Flor Marie Sta. Romana-Cruz described as the “most comprehensive survey on book readership in the country.” The second survey was undertaken in 2007. This year’s survey is the 3rd one.

Sta. Romana-Cruz believed that the results of the readership survey are useful for publishers, the Department of Education, mass media and the general public.

Bible still at number 1

A SLIDE FROM THE NBDB Readership Survey 2012 presentation

Linda Luz B. Guerrero, vice president and chief operating officer of Social Weather Stations (SWS) presented the results of the survey in 258 slides.

While some of the data didn’t quite reach me and I got lost in a haze of statistical jargon and technical obscuration, I believe I still managed to get the most important facts.

Here is a summary of the results of the 2012 NBDB Readership Survey:

  1. The average number of non-school books read by the respondents in the past 12 months is 6.
  2. The respondents read for information and knowledge. But based on this year’s survey results, more people are reading books for enjoyment.
  3. The top 3 on the list of “best-sellers” are: the bible, romance novels and cookbooks. 
  4. At the very bottom are these categories: music, poetry, psychology and erotica. 
  5. More respondents are reading books in Tagalog, next in English, and then Filipino. (Notice the distinction between Tagalog and Filipino.)
  6. 45% of respondents read Filipino authors only. 43% read foreign and Pinoy authors.
  7. When choosing books, the respondents are influenced by the blurb (44%), word of mouth (40%) and television (16%).
  8. The respondents get their non-school books by borrowing from others (47%), receiving them as gifts (44%), borrowing from the library (25%), renting (20%) or buying (16%).
  9. 16% of the respondents bought a non-school book in the last year. In 2007, the figure was 19%. In 2003, it was 22%. 
  10. The number of non-school books purchased for personal reading in the last 12 months (mean) is 4.8.
  11. More people are now buying non-school books that are on sale, or at a discount.
  12. Of those who read non-school books, only 6% read e-books.
  13. Of those who read e-books, 34% started reading books in this format in 2011. 
  14. 90% of respondents still prefer books that are printed and with the original cover 90%. The second preferred format is photocopied books, and the least preferred is digital or e-books.
  15. 86% say that books are not only good for school but also for daily activities.
  16. More respondents also consider books as good gifts.
  17. Respondents who watch TV, read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch DVD also read non-school books. All of the internet users surveyed read non-school books.
  18. Respondents who read non-school books declined in Visayas and Mindanao.
  19. Highest percentage of those who read non-school books are people who are single, college graduates and those with more income.
  20. Readers are getting younger. More readers are starting at 13 years old. (mean)
  21. Fact: Most people have time to read if they will choose to do so. 
  22. Fact:  Respondents believe that local books are written well.
  23. Fact: Books that look good (cover design, layout, etc.) are generally preferred.

What are we to do with these facts?


Sta. Romana-Cruz asked the heavy questions: What have we done, really, to promote reading and to package it as a worthwhile activity? How can we do a better job and move forward? How do we make reading more palatable?

(My question: Why should we? Reading is its own reward; it’s not something to be endured.)

With the kind of books we are producing (look around you and take a long look at bestsellers towers and displays in bookstores), what kind of readers are we creating?

DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHIL) Atty. Ricardo R. Blancaflor giving the closing remarks

I was chatting on Facebook yesterday with a writer friend who told me that he didn’t want to jump into the bandwagon. (He is a published, multi-awarded writer.)

I told him: At least more people are reading books, isn’t that a good thing?

What do you think? Let us know by posting your comments below. –

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