Issue 476 Featured Article: Contemplating life in reading

Maureen TANG, Associate General Secretary

At a time when the book industry is struggling to survive, there are still authors and publishers who insist on writing and publishing books. Even new bookshops are opening, against the deficit market. Why is it?

According to the report of Survey on Hong Kong People’s Reading Habits 2020 by Hong Kong Publishing Professionals Society1, the proportion of readers who have read printed books has remained at over 65% over the past five years; about 30% have not any read printed books this year, a slight drop of 3.3% from last year.

>> Printed book readers

From the analysis of the relevant ages, it was found that a higher proportion of young respondents read (about 80% of respondents under 18 and aged 18 – 30 read printed books, with the proportion of reading decreasing with age subsequently, to only 46.1% of respondents aged over 60). Interestingly, during the pandemic, the proportion of respondents under the age of 18 who said they spent time reading increased by nearly 40%, the highest of all age groups.

New book release sharing and dialogue session in “Stranded Hong Kong, aphasic HongKongers — Once in a Blue Moon”

>> Those without a habit of reading printed books

When asked about the reasons for not reading printed books in the past year, 36.5% of the respondents stated that they “have never had the habit of reading printed books”. The main reason for not reading was still “has no habit of reading”.

>> Reading Online

More than 90% of respondents used social media or online discussion forums to browse information. As for the purpose of accessing the Internet, 40.6% answered that it was mainly for reading news, while 28.0% indicated that it was mainly for viewing visual information or video clips.

If a book is available in both electronic and printed versions, how would people choose? 28.9% of the respondents would choose electronic while 56.1% would choose printed copies.

>> Is the younger generation no longer read (printed) books?

Based on this survey, I discover that the “younger generation” is not non-readers. On the contrary, the older ones get, the more they become “preoccupied with worldly affairs” and have no time or give up reading. More than 35% of the respondents who did not have the habit of reading physical books did not read because they “have never had the habit of reading printed books”. Thus, I believe it is meaningful to deliberately cultivate a reading habit.

As for reading e-books and printed books, the purposes and habits of reading are different; e-reading is mainly about socialising and receiving information, while the most popular type of printed book is literary fiction, followed by humanities, history, current affairs and politics. In my opinion, reading a printed book is about inviting the readers to leave space for the mind to enter into the piece (the time and space of writing), either to enjoy it or to meditate on it; to have their thoughts reverberate and to expand their horizons.

FES’s efforts in student evangelism have never advocated a fast-food approach to life issues, or settling for standard answers to faith questions. Our literature ministry has had a significant reduction in publications and production over the last decade because of the ministry focus and resource constraints. Yet, we have never ceased to develop students’ thinking habits and critical thinking skills through reading.

Our frontline staffs participated in the course of Theological Education by Extension from China Graduate School of Theology, “Life Works: Youth Development and Pastoral Care” with book stalls in the classroom.

>> Reading groups

Our staff in Fellowship Department lead reading clubs for students and graduates from time to time. The staff of the Literature Department set up book stalls in schools and churches. Evangelical Reading Room and Pause Bookstore regularly introduce good books and offer monthly discounts on their Facebook pages, at the same time organising book sharing events. FES community constantly encourages students and believers to read books of different genres, to ponder life in the sea of books, and to seek the truth with the reading communities.

>> Publication projects

In recent years, FES publication mainly aimed to support the ministry of school evangelism. Following the release of two sets of listening cards, “Being with Being” and “Affectionate Listening with Psalms” last year and this year in response to our listening campaign, “Dear Logos”, a series of evangelism booklets was published in September this year. The series consists of four booklets, each of which responds to a question: However, these articles do not provide a standard answer to a question, but rather adopt a stimulating approach that accompanies and guides the readers through a process of reflection. Together we reflect and struggle.

As a serving community for student evangelism, FES could run without its own publications and without its own bookshop. However, we could never stop nurturing students to think. Reading, as an integral part of this, is indispensable.

The latest release, “Dear Logos”, a series of evangelism booklets

1 Hong Kong Publishing Professionals Society: Survey on Hong Kong People’s Reading Habits 2020

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