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'Book capital' off to slow start in reading-promotion efforts: Thai chalk talk

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'Book capital' off to slow start in reading-promotion efforts

CHULARAT SAENGPASSA

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In the heart of Bangkok, there are billboards everywhere proudly touting the city as World Book Capital 2013.

BANGKOK: -- "World Book Capital" is the title bestowed by Unesco on a city in recognition of the quality of its book and reading programmes. The designation is awarded on Unesco's World Book and Copyright Day, April 23, and runs until April 22 of the following year.


Bangkok has become accustomed to large book events - often held in tandem with the country's growing number of publishers - to promote reading among younger generations. In celebration of its new status, there have been a number of large reading events held this year, under the theme, "Bangkok: Read for Life".

By the time the capital completes its term as the World Book Capital, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and its partners hope they will have been able to increase the number of books read by Bangkok residents from five to 15 per year.

However, in the three months since Bangkok officially became World Book Capital 2013, there are no indications that the BMA and associated parties have made any headway in achieving their target.

Even Deputy Bangkok City Clerk, Manit Techa-apichok, has admitted that in the first three months, since Bangkok became World Book Capital 2013, there have been no significant efforts made to boost the number of books read by Bangkok residents.

"As a result, we have adjusted the campaign. Now, we aim to make books available for Bangkok residents anytime, anywhere," he said.

They would be made available at bus stops, taxi stands, BTS stations and anywhere that public transportation is available in the capital, Manit said.

"We have nearly 100,000 donated books at our disposal - these can be circulated at many bus-stops and elsewhere," he added.

Assoc Prof Wittayakorn Chiengkul, an honorary dean at the Rangsit University's College of Innovation, said the BMA and its partners should rethink their plans.

"Perhaps, there is a simpler way [to promote reading]: Teachers can ask their students what book they would like to read this month. Then, throughout the month, they can discuss and exchange opinions about that book. When the next month arrives, they can move on to another book.

He also suggested the use of volunteers to read books aloud in public places where members of the general public could sit and listen.

Wittayakorn said the BMA was focusing too much on uncoordinated one-off events and tangible results would only be achieved if activities took place on a regular basis.

With proper planning and the promotion of reading in schools, he said the BMA could achieve its goals. He added that the BMA operated hundreds of schools in the capital and each one had hundreds of students. Reading activities at these places of learning could generate a huge impact.

Why has the BMA and its partners failed so completely to make any impression on their target? The administration has known, after all, for at least two years that it would become World Book Capital 2013.

Wittayakorn added that BMA's partners included over 100 organisations, but despite this, he said Bangkok was still a long way off from the day when Bangkok residents would be seen carrying books around with them, or sitting and reading in public.

According to Manit, it was the failure of the BMA to integrate the efforts of its various partners, which has resulted in a lacklustre three-month campaign so far.

Yet, he has high hopes that activities conducted over the next nine months will successfully encourage Bangkok residents to read 15 books a year on average.

The goal seems ambitious, but perhaps it's not unrealistic - given that people in neighbouring countries read a lot. On average, Malaysians read 40 books a year, Singaporeans, 45, and Vietnamese, 60.

Given that reading is closely associated with learning, relevant parties in Thailand should spare no effort in trying to help the BMA achieve its goal. At the same time, the BMA must find a way to efficiently integrate those efforts. Otherwise, no matter how many partners it has, a failure to boost the number of Bangkok readers by the end of World Book Capital 2013 will be a golden opportunity lost, and Bangkok's residents will continue to shy away from reading.

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-- The Nation 2013-07-08

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No mention of digital books - epubs - that can be had online for free or very, very cheap

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No mention of digital books - epubs - that can be had online for free or very, very cheap

IMHO and having been teaching English here for more than five years, Thais just don't read! When the question is posed as to what book they read last, the answer is invariably, 'cartoons'. A sad indictment of the education system. :-(

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But the second largest user of facebook in the world, Thai people in general are not readers, except for cartoon!

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how can you be a book capital if no one is reading ? Sorry but I never saw any Thais reading a book , beside those cartoon or Japanese manga. I am sure it exists but never seen any.

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increase the number of books read by Bangkok residents from five to 15 per year

They could easily achieve that by reducing the number of pages per book. Some of those comics are too long. :(

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No mention of digital books - epubs - that can be had online for free or very, very cheap

My wife loves to read, but isn't very computer savvy, so I searched for online sources of ebooks in Thai. I can read and write Thai well enough to do a google search for free ebooks and quickly came up with a grand total of 0 free ebooks in Thai on the web. There weren't many non-free ebooks available either. If you know of a site that has cheap or free ebooks in Thai, I would love to know the address.

There is a Book Fair or Expo held at Queen Sirikit Center once a year. We went to the most recent one and it was the most crowded subway ride I've ever taken! The event was absolutely packed. Anyone who thinks that Thais don't read should just attend the next event (I think that it will be in March next year).

Given the number of people who attended the event I wondered why they only hold it once a year. A Thai friend told me that it isn't because of lack of demand, it's because the publishers simply don't produce enough new books to justify quarterly book fairs.

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