Why don’t people read in Taiwan?

8 Apr

I was initially surprised when I first saw the headline of this article (which this post’s title is a copy of), but after some thought, not anymore. Basically, Taiwanese don’t read much, much less so than people in countries like France, Russia, Japan, and mainland China. This worries the government so much that the ministry of culture has come up with a plan to help local publishers. The Atlantic Monthly article describes the decline in reading and, and mentions this is contrasted by Taiwan’s many bookstores, highlighted by the very well-known Eslite, an elegant local version of Borders (US) or Chapters (Canada). The main conclusions are that Taiwanese mainly buy Western bestsellers or self-help books, reading isn’t very popular, and that the local literary scene is not in good shape.
I do have local friends and acquaintances who read, and Western books are indeed popular. I can’t confirm the article’s assertion that nobody reads (the title is definitely a very hyperbolic one). Many people do read newspapers, magazines, and manga (Japanese comics). However, I’d say I don’t find it surprising that locals don’t read much books on average, since I feel that many young people, or even middle-aged people, don’t seem curious about or want to know more about the world. Since most available books are written by non-Taiwanese and about the world, I’d think this doesn’t make books very appealing. Couple that with the fact that the local media is not very professional and focuses more on gossip and scandal than news and information, and that there’re many forms of entertainment and leisure to distract Taiwanese, and it’s not hard to see that reading, especially serious literature and nonfiction, may be seriously declining. As the writer says, many people in libraries here are either studying or browsing magazines or newspapers, or making out (I can’t say I’ve seen this), while Eslite is popular but it’s mostly a hangout spot (to be honest, I do see many people reading whenever I’m there).

Unfortunately, HTC’s woes keep continuing as its 1st quarter profit was a measly US$2.8 million, down by a whopping 98 percent from last year. HTC has the Facebook phone, which it made, but that’s been receiving mixed reviews. I own a HTC phone, which I bought in 2011 when HTC was quite popular and which is getting a bit long in the tooth, and I’m glad to have done so. Yet the company has been going through a bunch of missteps and I’m no longer as fond of supporting Taiwan companies as before. So in future, who knows.


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