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What Hong Kong’s young people are reading and how

By Astina Ng and Vivian Ng


If you look around on the train or the bus, or in cafés and restaurants, you are sure to see young people sitting and standing with their heads bent slightly forward, staring at their smartphones and tablets. It is less likely that you will see someone reading a printed book.

Hong Kong is often criticized for being a cultural and literary desert. Indeed, a survey of 800 people commissioned earlier this year by Sun Hung Kai Properties found that “reading” was ranked seventh out of nine leisure activities, behind shopping and listening to music and just ahead of sleeping.

Perhaps just as prevalent as the idea that Hong Kong’s reading culture is in a sorry state is the notion that Hong Kong’s young people belong to a generation that simply does not read.

Thanks to the growth of the internet, youngsters live in an age where information is readily available and for free online, accessed through computers, phones and other mobile devices. It seems obvious that young people no longer want to turn the pages of actual books.

But is the charge that the young do not read a fair one? Varsity set out to explore the reading culture of Hong Kong students, to find out their views about reading, what they are really reading and how. We conducted a survey (full results here) of 262 young people aged between 15 and 26, attending four local secondary schools and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The vast majority of respondents were aged under 23.

The poll found that 37 per cent of the respondents said they spend an average of between half an hour and one hour reading each day. While 25 per cent of respondents said they spent less than half an hour reading each day and an equal number said they spent between one and two hours reading per day.

Most of the respondents thought it was important for young people to read, 89 per cent chose four or five on a scale of one to five (where five meant “very important”). But only 10 per cent thought that young people were reading enough and 61 per cent of respondents thought they did not spend enough time reading. The most common reason given was the lack of time.

“It’s not like we don’t want to read, but we don’t even have enough time to study, let alone read [for leisure],” says Janice Wong, one of the respondents from a local secondary school. Janice says she would rather scan through posts and articles on online social media platforms than read a novel from start to finish. “Short articles shared on Facebook and forums provide an excellent platform for us to read. They are much easier to read and it’s simply more convenient,” she says.