Vietnam wants its internet-savvy citizens to read more books

By VnExpress   March 17, 2017 | 11:29 am GMT+7
Vietnam wants its internet-savvy citizens to read more books
Visitors at at a book fair in Hanoi in January 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

And no, watching a movie based on a book doesn't count.

Vietnam's government has announced a new initiatve to promote reading, hoping that locals will read at least four books a year by 2020.

This project, approved on Wednesday, will include public campaigns and efforts to make libraries more popular and accessible, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Vietnam aims to draw around 300 million visits to public and school libraries every year, the paper said.

Le Hoang, vice chairman of the Vietnam Publishing Association, said at a conference last December that the reading culture in Vietnam is fading.

Hoang said while book sales increased in recent years, 80 percent of all books sold in Vietnam are textbooks and study guides.

Apart from those textbooks, Vietnamese only read an average of one book a year, he said, as cited by Tuoi Tre.

In comparison, a typical American, for instance, now reads four books a year, accorrding to the Pew Research Center.

Hoang criticized schools for not successfully encouraging reading and creativity.

The new government-funded reading initiative will also promote e-books. In Vietnam, where piracy remains one of the biggest challenges for the creative economy, e-books now only account for a miniscule 0.5 percent of all book sales.

The country's relatively small publishing industry cannot compete with the overwhelming varieties of content on the internet.

When Vietnamese are in front of a screen, the chance is very low that they are reading a book.

More than half of the population are now online. And a Nielsen survey last September found 92 percent of Vietnamese internet users watch online videos at least once a week, the highest rate in Southeast Asia, and the daily number of viewers increased significantly from 10 percent of internet users in 2012 to 64 percent last year.

Vietnam also made it to the global top 10 countries of YouTube watch time in late 2015. Google, the owner of YouTube, said the watch time in Vietnam increased 120 percent compared to the previous year.

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