Indians ‘world’s biggest readers’

Indians are the world’s biggest bookworms, reading on average 10.7 hours a week, twice as long as Americans, according to a new survey.

The NOP World Culture Score index surveyed 30,000 people in 30 countries from December 2004 to February 2005.

Analysts said self-help and aspirational reading could explain India’s high figures.

Time spent on reading meant fewer hours watching TV and listening to the radio – India came fourth last in both.

The NOP survey of 30,000 consumers aged over 13 saw Thailand and China take second and third place respectively in average hours a week spent reading books, newspapers and magazines.

Britons and Americans scored about half the Indians’ hours and Japanese and Koreans were even lower – at 4.1 and 3.1 hours respectively.

Social change

“They place a great deal of emphasis on reading. That’s the reason why they do well in education and universities abroad,” he told the BBC News website. “People educate themselves and deal with change throughout their lives. And the way to do that is to update themselves with books.”

Mr Sriram says social changes have also made a difference: “Earlier people could turn to their parents and grandparents for advice. Now they turn to books.” Indian writer and editor, Tarun Tejpal, said the survey only made sense if it excluded the high numbers of illiterate Indians. The National Readership Survey shows more than one-third of rural Indians and about 15% of the urban population is still illiterate.

“A lot of [book reading] is aspirational, getting ahead in the rat race, getting admission into schools and colleges etc. It has less to do with reading, more to do with rote,” Mr Tejpal said.

Leading columnist, Venkateshwar Rao, told Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper he could not see Indians flocking to book stores. “Reading books just isn’t a habit with them because they’re not into cultural pursuits. It’s not a part of their make-up. All they want to do is consume.”

Mr Tejpal said: “A good book in India will sell only a few thousand copies, in the UK or US it could sell tens of thousands. “It gives you a sense of what we value – in the UK or US if you haven’t read a book in the bestseller list, you would be socially dead.”

India’s strong reading score may have helped push it down the TV and radio list. Indians came fourth from bottom of the 30-strong list in both, with an average of 13.3 hours watching TV and 4.1 hours listening to the radio.

Thais were the biggest TV watchers, admitting to watching an average of 22.4 hours a week, while Argentineans listened to most radio.


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