Thais do read and they read a lot according to data collected by Thailand Knowledge Park (TK Park), so let’s erase that old belief that Thais read just eight lines per year once and for all.
The TK Park library at CentralWorld has just revealed the news that its members have set a new record in books borrowed in 2022, both print and online, averaging 2,908 titles at any one time or over one million books in total.
Interestingly, all books have been borrowed at least once and the highest record was 1,644 times for one book. TK Park Online Library also boasts more than 16,000 e-books, magazines, and audiobooks, all in Thai from leading publishing houses. It’s great value too with members paying a fee of just 100-200 baht, meaning that it costs 2-4 baht to read one book if the member borrows 50 books a year. Given the economic hard times of today, that’s a real bargain and also exemplifies the circular economy. It’s friendly to the environment too.
Thais still read “a lot”
Although it seems that Thai people spend a great deal of time on social media, they do also read. The latest survey carried out by the National Statistics Office and TK Park revealed that Thais spend around 80 minutes per day reading, mostly electronically, online media that include e-books, e-magazines, articles from online platforms and websites.
Reading patterns have changed as has subject matter. The most popular titles in 2022 were mostly related to self-improvement and knowledge though people read for entertainment too. In particular, books on personal finance and investment made the top 10 of most borrowed books at TK Library at CentralWorld. The most popular was “Srang Port Longtoon Tee Khun Munjai” (literally building a good investment port) by Thailand’s leading data scientist Pornput Suriyamonkol. Books on Bitcoin, Blockchain and TFEX market were also among the favourites in this group.
Eastern authors more applicable
Interestingly, 2022 saw a rise in books that help their readers cope with uncertainty in life. The Covid pandemic can probably be credited for encouraging people to take better care of themselves, physical and emotionally. Books on mental health have been a hit throughout the year and the most borrowed are the Thai editions of Japan and Korean best-sellers as they seem to get into the heart and mind of readers. Perhaps sharing a common Asian culture and some beliefs and values makes readers want to consult these authors. In this category, a Korean book on depression (I want to die but I want to eat tteokbokki) by Baek Se-hee was the most popular among TK Park members. Others frequent choices included books to soothe souls such as “Actually, I’m an introvert” and “Ikigai” which expounds on the meaning of living and life.
In terms of fiction, 2022 saw mainly books from the East winning Thai hearts. Translated works of fiction from China and Japan topped the list, especially the titles that have been turned into series. The top two borrowed books of the year were the Chinese novels “Sawasdeekrup Khun Panraya” (“Hello my wife”) and “Khun Kue Pom Prakarn Kong Chan” (“you are my fortress”). The hit fiction titles also included the so-called ‘Boy Love’ and ‘Girl Love’ genres.
While Thais love drama and romance by Chinese writers, they love investigation and mystery by Japanese authors. In this category, the most borrowed titles in 2022 were from award-winning mystery author Keigo Higashino including “Namiya’s Grocery Miracle”, “Secret”, “Devotion of Suspect X” and “Rule of the Detective”.
No recovery for travel-related books
2022 has not seen a comeback of travel guides and memoirs which were greatly impacted by the travel restrictions during the pandemic. Other indirect competitors of the books in this category are travel blogs and vlogs on social media. However, “New York 1st Time” by Thanachat Siriphatrachai did make it into the hit borrowing list.
E-reading shows a bright future
Based on borrowing data of TK Park at CTW, eBooks were more popular in 2022. The library has seen a significant increase in the borrowing of books and periodicals through the TK Rad and Libby applications [eBook borrowing is also more flexible for some publications]. For example, in October-November 2022, there was over 526,000 instances of online borrowing via the apps while the physical library recorded 480,000 times.
The two-year span of the pandemic stimulated eBooks and accelerated this sector’s growth. Interestingly, the popular items are not so different from the print, with the Thai version of “Sapiens”, a brief history of mankind by Yuval Noah Harari topping eBook borrowing while fantasy novel “The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig topped the English eBooks category.
By Veena Thoopkrajae