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Why does one third of the population never touch a book?

On World Book Day, we ask publishers in Spain on the benefits of reading. “People resist simply because they have not tried it”, says author José de Segovia.

FUENTES Protestante Digital AUTOR 45/Jonatan_Soriano,5/Evangelical_Focus BARCELONA 23 DE ABRIL DE 2024 18:00 h
Photo: [link]Becca Tapert[/link], Unsplash, CC0.

Can one never touch a book? Not one, but millions.



Those are the data from the latest Barometer of Reading Habits in Spain, which compiles figures from 2023 and says that 35.9% of the population does not read.



The federation of Spanish publishers, which carries out the barometer, sees the evolution as “good news” , since in 2012 40.9% of the Spanish population claimed to never read.



For the president of the federation, Daniel Fernández, the positive figure is the 52% of frequent readers, in contrast to “that stubborn third of Spaniards who never open a book”



“Reading is a vice like any other. Why is there a third of the Spanish population that still resists it? Simply because they haven't tried it. The day you do it, you become so hooked that you can't stop” , says José de Segovia, journalist, theologian and writer.



With an ironic tone, De Segovia points out the dangers of indulging in reading: “you can come to think for yourself, instead of what you see on social media or videos on the Internet”.



“If you read, you will run out of commonplaces, clichés and all those slogans that make your life easier” , he adds.



 



Reading, a mirror of society?



The minister of culture, Ernest Urtasun, pointed out that the data show aspects of the general lifestyle of Spaniards, and “we must improve the life quality of that free time”.



To analyse the Barometer figures, Protestante Digital talked to three of the main publishers of evangelical literature in the country.



“A remarkable fact is that only 38.3% of people read exclusively for leisure” says the manager of Andamio publishing, Javier Santos.



According to Santos, “this data shows a continued growth in reading, despite the numerous entertainment influences that surround us", and "it suggests that reading continues to be a relevant and growing activity amidst the diversification of entertainment options in our society”.



For Raquel Farrugia, of Peregrino publishing, to know about “that 64% of the reading population is consolidating is a surprise” that “encourages us”.



Furthermore, it "shows that it is possible to keep or start a reading habit despite the many distractions around us”.



On the contrary, the executive director of Clie publishing, Alfonso Triviño, considers that the barometer “is a wake-up call for all of us who value literature and its capacity to enrich human life”.



“Reading is not only a source of knowledge and entertainment, but also a way to develop empathy, reflection and knowledge of God and spiritual health”. It is essential to find ways to make reading more accessible and attractive to all”, he stresses.



 



Habit makes the reader



Christian publishers agree on some of the reasons why almost 36% of Spaniards never open a book.



Farrugia speaks of a “busyness” and “over-stimulation” that “often makes it difficult for us to pause and engage in activities that require attention, concentration and reflection such as reading”, and Triviño notes “a lack of time as a common complaint” that, in reality, “hides a complex net of priorities and personal choices”.



All agree on the need to create habits at a time when “reading has many 'competitors' fighting for our time”, as Farrugia points out.



That is why “it is essential to develop reading habits from an early age, starting with books that spark interest and curiosity”, stresses Santos.



“Establishing regular reading times, keeping a to-read list and participating in reading circles, whether with friends or family, are effective strategies to foster the pleasure of reading”, he adds.



Evangelical publishers also agree on the need to take advantage of those supposed “competitors" to reading that have appeared. Triviño points out that “the increase in screen time and digital content consumption suggests a shift in leisure preferences".



“People read a lot today, more than ever before. We are surrounded by books and discourse, but in a different way than in the past. Moreover, the perception of reading as a solitary activity as opposed to shared online experiences may dissuade some. To reverse this trend, it is crucial to understand those factors and address them creatively and empathetically”, he adds.



Santos believes that “although it is not considered mainstream reading, it is key to pay attention to the audio book phenomenon”.



“Big companies such as Amazon, Google and Spotify are heavily investing in this form of book consumption. Audio books have the advantage of making the most of time when it is not possible to stop and read, such as driving or exercising. However, while convenient, audio books do not provide some of the cognitive and emotional benefits of the traditional reading experience”, he says.



 



How to reach the 36% of non-readers?



The barometer data explain the creativity that the publishing sector has been forced into for years. But even that is no guarantee, so that Santos insists on the need to “develop the habit of reading from the earliest years of childhood, making books an everyday part of our lives”.



“Beyond being a pleasurable experience, books should be perceived as a valuable resource for broadening knowledge and stimulating the imagination”, he adds.



He also considers key “the reduction of the consumption of 'chewed' audiovisual content” and the enhancement of "reading as a more enriching activity”.



Santos even suggests churches as spaces to “create and promote those reading habits”.



“Ideas such as reading clubs, having a library in the church, options of books to buy for different ages or situations, sharing what has been learned through a book in a Whatsapp group, studying a book and sharing it in Sunday schools or home groups, etc., can greatly enrich reading, but at the same time strengthen our Christian life and relationship with the Lord”, he says.



Farrugia agrees that “just as schools and libraries make efforts to encourage reading, families and churches are spaces where not only the 'consumption' of content, but good content that not only entertains us but also nourishes us, should also be encouraged and fostered”.



Clie underlines “the integration of literature into the digital platforms that non-readers already enjoy”, with books that “incorporate visual and audio elements, or applications that transform the reading experience into something as interactive and social as video games”.



He also stresses the motivation to “work to change the perception of reading, showing it as a relaxing and rewarding activity that can offer a welcome break from the constant flood of digital stimulation”.



 



Have screens killed the book star?



The big debate is whether screens have done more harm than good to reading rates.



According to the barometer, digital reading has stagnated for years at 29% of the population, without overcoming the 30% barrier it reached for the first and only time in 2020.



For Santos, this may be because “despite those advantages, reading on mobile devices, whether phones or tablets, has the disadvantage of many interferences in our hyper-connected lives”.



“Reading requires concentration, and those distractions can negatively affect the on-screen reading experience. Despite the growing popularity of digital, many readers still prefer to cultivate the habit of reading on physical media”, he adds.



Triviño does not see it as a debate but rather as an “opportunity to innovate the way we present and consume literature”.



“Screens offer new possibilities for interactivity and multimedia storytelling, while paper retains its traditional charm. The key is to find a balance that respects and builds on the strengths of both media”, he says.



Farrugia also believes that “digital and audiovisual formats have their place and their advantages”, although he admits that "some formats favour a transmission of information that is more immediately acquired and perhaps also more easily forgotten”.



“Reading requires a more trained and active process than, for example, watching a short video, but it allows to acquire information in a more paused way, which maybe allows to digest and internalise the content more, among its many benefits”, he adds.



[analysis]



[title]One more year[/title]

[photo][/photo]

[text]At Evangelical Focus, we have a sustainability challenge ahead. We invite you to join those across Europe and beyond who are committed with our mission. Together, we will ensure the continuity of Evangelical Focus and Protestante Digital (Spanish) in 2024.





Learn all about our #OneMoreYearEF campaign here (English).



[/text][/analysis]


 

 


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