When was the last time you were lost in a good book?
Books are still, of course, an essential part of our lives,… but getting a little tech obsessed these days… people tend to turn to smartphones or computers when they have spare time… or rather go outside for some leisure activities than stay home reading a book...
Recent data shows that Koreans' spending on book purchases is on a steady decline…
What is behind the trend? Arirang News' Kwon Soa joins us to tell us more.
Good morning, Soa!
Good morning, Jin-joo.
It's a gloomy Friday,... but I think it's the perfect weather to curl up in bed with a cup of tea and a good book.
But, the reality is we see more people staring into their smartphones rather than flipping the pages of a book.
With the rapid development in technology, some people might say it's an unavoidable trend... but there are efforts being made in the country to promote the culture of reading.
Let's take a look.
An adult literacy rate of 98 percent.
Roughly seven out of ten go to university.
But, the average household in Korea buys fewer than one book a month.
Somewhat ironic, but Koreans' interest in reading books seems to be going downhill.
In a study last year, only five percent of Koreans over 13 years old said their favorite hobby was reading.
That figure was eight percent ten years in 2004.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the average Korean read nine-point-two books in 2013, down zero-point-seven from 2011.
These figures make bad reading for bookstores, especially the small- and mid-sized ones.
"The reading population seems to be going down as the economy isn't doing well. Most small bookstores are losing money.
We try to entice customers by organizing meetings with authors or by holding literature lectures.
But, these activities aren't easy for bookstore owners, due the difficult financial situation."
Experts say, however, that the sluggish economy shouldn't take all the blame.
They say books tend to be too expensive and people are just choosing to spend their money on other things.
The amount of money spent on cultural and entertainment activities has actually risen for 10 straight years, but among that category,... spending on books has decreased steadily for the past four... slumping to a record low last year.
"With the rising amount of academic and work-related stress, people feel the need to release that by entertaining themselves in a more active way... which has lead to less reading.
There's also a much broader variety of media available now, especially via smartphones."
But, speaking of smart, while paper book sales are down, some say the rise in e-books could reignite Korea's lost love for reading.
Kyobo, one of Korea's major bookstores that also provides e-book services, has seen a big success in its demand for digital reading, as its customers read nearly 15 books a year.
Public institutions are also coming up with measures to rekindle an interest in reading.
"Whether it be people going to the library or bookstore, it's just a matter of borrowing or buying.
We opened a mini bookstore inside the library so readers can approach books in both ways at the same location."
And here's a location that's one of many booming in the heart of Seoul.
Book cafes are winning the hearts of many readers, as they do not only provide a perfect place to read, relax, and drink coffee,... but many of them have a special touch of their own.
The owners of "Bbalgang Chaegbang" or red book cafe say their cafe is more of a culture cafe... as reading should be seen as a culture itself.
From book rankings to dessert rankings, it wants to ensure customers have an easy time selecting what they want.
"When I read at home it's easy to get disturbed by my family, but here I can concentrate better, and the lighting and music makes you want to stay longer. I think that's why more and more of these places are popping up around town."
The book cafe we just saw in Seoul's Hongdae area is just one of many more in that area.
Some of them hold book club meetings... to encourage people to come together and make reading a shared experience.
And others offer special stations equipped with e-books.
Speaking of e-books... with the spread of smart devices... people can more easily gain access to e-books anywhere anytime... wouldn't this trend eventually push the nation's reading rate up... sooner or later?
Although that is true, the expert I talked to earlier pointed out that the majority of e-book readers are those who already are passionate readers of conventional books. They are so-called hybrid readers.
In the U.S. where the e-book trend took off much earlier, he said the market has remained stagnant for some years now ... this is why he says the price of devices or better content development are factors that need to be considered to ensure a steady demand.
Let's hope the policy will be successful, and that all the other efforts will lead to a reading fever sometime... Thank you Soa, for that report.