Young people continue to be enamoured of books, especially fiction, reveals a survey on reading habits in the north eastern region

An unbelievable 73 per cent of the youth in Bihar read fiction! Surprised? This is according to an analysis of a survey on the reading habits of people in the north eastern (NE) states.

The analysis done on “Youth of North-East India; Demographics and Readership in correlation with Youth of Bihar and Maharashtra” suggests that one-fourth (25 per cent) of literate youth across the country read books other than texts.

The analysis reveals that 73 per cent of youth in Bihar and 45-47 per cent in the NE region, 34 per cent in Maharashtra and 41 per cent in the rest of the States prefer to read fiction. The percentage of those who enjoy reading non-fiction is 11, 18, 27 and 25 respectively as against 42 per cent fiction readers and 24 per cent non-fiction readers in the country as a whole.

In rural Assam the most liked non-fiction genre is ‘biographies’ (28 per cent) followed by ‘self-help books’ (25 per cent) which is preferred only by 8 per cent of non-fiction readers of rural India.

In urban Assam, ‘biographies’ (36 per cent) and ‘philosophy’ (29 per cent) are the two most popular genre in the non-fiction category. But in urban areas of other NE states, ‘biographies’ (32 per cent) are most preferred while ‘current affairs’ and ‘religious books’ take second and third position with 22 per cent and 21 per cent readership respectively.

In both rural and urban areas of Maharashtra 34-35 per cent of youth prefer ‘biographies’ and 30-31 per cent ‘religious books’. But, in Bihar, the rural percentages of both ‘biographies’ (45 per cent, with 34 per cent in urban) and ‘religious books’ (28 per cent, with 24 per cent in urban) are higher. In the rest of the States, 29-30 per cent of non-fiction readers prefer ‘biographies’ but the readership of ‘religious books’ is significantly higher in rural areas (37 per cent) compared to urban (28 per cent). 

The percentage of youth who read leisure books in rural areas is the highest in Nagaland (57 per cent) and lowest in Arunachal Pradesh (12 per cent), while in urban areas it is 74 per cent in Mizoram and 15 per cent in Sikkim.

In Assam, 41 per cent of rural youth consider the subject of the book as the most important deciding factor for reading. The other important considerations are ‘author profile’ and ‘price’ (26 per cent and 17 per cent) respectively. However, in other NE states, the price of the book is the most important factor (52 per cent) while purchasing leisure books, followed by subject (16 per cent) and author profile (13 per cent). For rural Maharashtra, subject is the most important weighing factor as viewed by 38 per cent youth, the next important factor being price which has only a marginal amount of higher support over the author profile (22 per cent vs 19 per cent).

The youth from the ‘rest of the states’ has expressed a more convincing opinion – that subject (30 per cent) and author profile (27 per cent) are the two most important weighing factors, price can only be the third factor (25 per cent). A stark rural-urban divide in favour of urban has been observed in the cases of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura. But the differences are quite narrow in Manipur and Nagaland. 

The proportion of leisure readers is higher in urban India (31.2 per cent) compared to rural India (21.3 per cent). This shows that rural youth is placed at a disadvantage compared to urban youth - only one-fifth of among them are able to read books.

The survey shows that youth from the NE states is more inclined towards reading books compared to the other states. In fact, the north-eastern region has performed much better than Maharashtra, which is the topmost State of the country in terms of economic well-being. The results reveal that the NE region is at the top slot with 67 per cent (85 per cent urban, 59 per cent rural) readers followed by Assam with 41 per cent (55 per cent urban, 38 per cent rural), showing that the NE states are far ahead of Maharashtra with 34 per cent (39 per cent urban, 28 per cent rural) readers.  

The NE states, despite their economic backwardness, have a greater proportion of readers, 43 per cent, among the youth population. While the central States have the largest block (85 per cent) of non-readers, the north-east has the smallest (57 per cent).

The survey also suggests that the north-eastern region has the highest proportion of literate youth hailing from rural areas, while in the remaining parts of India the concentration of literate youth is more towards urban.

Results presented in the report are primarily based on information collected through an all India primary survey, “National Youth Readership Survey -2009”undertaken by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) on behalf of National Book Trust under the National Action Plan for Readership Development.

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