Yes, Filipinos Are Still Reading. But There’s a Challenge.


It’s easy to think that people aren’t reading anymore.

Bookstores are getting smaller and social media takes up so much of our time. I am a reader but I still struggle with scrolling on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. People tell me that they used to read a lot but no longer do because they replaced their books with their smartphones.

While these make it easy to think that Filipinos are no longer reading, that is simply not the case.

I realized this when I joined BookTok, a community on TikTok where people post videos about, well, books. There is a vibrant community of TikTokers, including Filipinos, who post book reviews, shopping hauls, unboxings, and recommendations. BookTok is so powerful that it is credited for helping Colleen Hoover sell 14.3 million copies of her books in 2022 alone.

@koji.reads I read four books this June! It was Pride Month so I made sure all of them were queer reads 🌈 #booktok #booktokph #bookhaul #bookrecommendations #booktokfyp #lgbtreads #queerbooktok ♬ Exciting, exciting, cute songs(1283711) – Korepoi

There is data to prove that people are still reading. According to Wordsrated, an international research data and analytics group, “As of 2023, the global trade book sales revenue is estimated at $78.07 billion, which will be a 2.53% increase over 2022.” While it must be noted that global trade book sales in 2022 were 10.11% down compared to 2021, the global projection that book sales will reach $82.7 billion in 2027, with an average annual growth of 1.48%, is encouraging.

Filipinos are still reading

This optimistic outlook for books is shared by Adrian Ramos, the president of National Book Store (NBS).

“There are still a lot of people who want to read. A lot of kids still want to read,” he said.

If you want proof, just take a look at videos online of the long lines and big crowds at the bookstore’s “biggest sale ever” last March, where shoppers bought 10 books for just P100.

@nationalbookstore Hanggang Miyerkules na lang ang BUY 10 BOOKS FOR ₱100 promo ng #NBSOutlet! Sugod na at mamili ng bagsak presyong libro! 📚 #FYP #TikTok #BookTok #Cubao #QuezonCity #BookShopping #Shopping #Shop #Book #Books #BooksPH #Outlet #OutletStore #Sale #NBSsale #NBS #LakingNational #BalikSayaBalikNBS ♬ Swear By It – Chris Alan Lee

So yes, Filipinos are still reading. So why do people think that we’re not?

The answer could be the titles that are trending. According to Ramos, “If you notice that the books that are trending on BookTok, a lot of them are for young readers or have themes for young adults. So somebody from an older generation may say, ‘Oh, kids, they don’t read,’ but I don’t think that’s true.”

There’s also a bigger challenge.

Book prices

The challenge with books is that they are getting more and more expensive. Social media, on the other hand, is free.

“For a vast majority of Filipinos who want to read, there’s an affordability challenge. There are a lot more options in terms of entertainment. So books need to compete with social media and streaming. It needs to compete with so many things, not just for time, but the share of wallet,” Ramos said.

NBS is looking at finding alternative sources of books to make them more accessible. According to Ramos, this is so that they “can make great titles available at affordable prices to our customers.”

And of course, they hold events like the 10 for P100 book sale, which took place at their outlet store in Cubao. The store is a reader’s paradise as it has an entire floor of books, many of which are sold at bargain prices (even if there’s no sale).

National Book Store

NBS is also making reading more enticing by building up its inventory of what’s in demand.

“We’re doing it in a bit of a more disciplined, targeted manner. We’re slowly building up, a little bit more hyper-focused toward certain segments. So there’s a lot of manga, teens, romance, and fantasy,” Ramos revealed.

One of NBS’s early taglines is “Where the only thing less is the price.” It’s nice that even in 2023, when prices continue to go up, the bookstore is still ensuring that reading is still accessible. All you need to do is pick a title.

What do you think? Share your thoughts below!

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