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Brazil, a Nation that Doesn’t Read

 Brazil, a Nation that 
  Doesn't Read

Brazil’s publishing
industry is the world’s eighth in production
volume. But the whole country has only 1,500 book stores while
89 percent of Brazilian municipalities do not have a single
bookstore. According to a new study, 61 percent of Brazil’s literate
adult population has very little or no contact with books.
by: Cecília
Jorge

The price of books, lack of libraries, and illiteracy can be considered some
of the reasons for Brazil’s low reading index. For the vice-president of the
CBL (Câmara Brasileira do Livro—Brazilian Book Chamber), Bernardo
Gurbanov, the low level of formal education is one of the chief causes of
the reading situation in Brazil.

According to a CBL study,
Portrait of Reading in Brazil, 61 percent of Brazil’s literate adult population
has very little or no contact with books. Among the 17 million people who
don’t like to read books, 11.5 million have 8 years of schooling or less.

"Without a doubt,
we would require at least one library in each municipality. But it is not
enough simply to erect buildings; it is necessary to complement this with
planning aimed at education, instilling the habit of reading, and the offer
of books, not just the classics, but the most contemporary and modern ones,"
Gurbanov argues.

The vice-president of
the CBL criticizes the current wisdom that a library is set up mainly through
book donations. "We have to change this conception, which is already
widely disseminated. The idea that a library comes into being through donations
is mistaken and perpetuates backwardness," he judges.

Gurbanov, an Argentinean
who has lived in Brazil for 27 years, praised the initiative of the "Reading
is also a passion" project, launched June 2nd during the match
between the Brazilian and Argentinean national soccer selections.

"Brazil and Argentina
have a special passion for soccer, as we all know. Let’s hope this will be
the kickoff so the people of Argentina and Brazil can develop the same passion
for reading, without all this rivalry that exists in soccer," he commented.

According to Gurbanov,
this is an initiative that can contribute to stimulating the habit of reading.
"I was in Argentine twice in April, and I observed once again that there
is an interest in reading and a widely disseminated habit of reading. The
Argentinean educational system encourages reading as a recreational activity,"
he explained.

What follows is a summary
of the most important findings of the study, Portrait of Reading in Brazil,
and data from other research.

The Habit of Reading

– Schooling is the chief
determinant of the degree of affinity for book-reading.

– Book-reading is valued, in fact, by only 1/3 of the literate adult population.

– The so-called classes B and C contain 70 percent of book fans.

– Among the 17 million people who don’t like to read books, 11.5 million attended
school for eight years or less.

Access to Books

– Studies by the Ministry
of Culture indicate that approximately 1,300 Brazilian municipalities in the
poorest regions don’t have public libraries.

– Half the books read at present are not bought.

– 61 percent of literate adult Brazilians has very little or no contact with
books.

– 6.5 million individuals from the poorest segments of the population say
they are unable to buy books.

– 7 of every 10 non-readers have low purchasing power.

– 73 percent of the books are concentrated in the hands of only 16 percent
of the population.

– Over half the book purchasers (58 percent) are concentrated in six states
in the South and Southeast regions.

The Book Market

– Brazil has 1,500 book
stores (the ideal would be 10,000).

– 89 percent of Brazilian municipalities lack bookstores.

– The Brazilian publishing industry is eighth in the world ranking by production
volume.

– There are about 530 active publishing houses ("active" means that
at least five books or 10,000 copies are published annually).

– In the United States, 30 percent of the books that are published are acquired
by public collections. In Brazil only 1 percent of what is published is destined
for libraries.

– Book acquisition by North American libraries is greater than Brazil’s entire
consumption.


Cecília Jorge works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press
agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.

Translated from
the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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