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Russians read ever less, reading stuff gets more primitive

December 29, 2014, 15:58 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© TASS/Yuri Smityuk

MOSCOW, December 29. /TASS/. Most Russians still like to read a book now and then, but nearly a third say they “read practically nothing”. The advent of the Internet and the overall slump in the general level of culture amid the “realities of wild capitalism” have caused huge harm to the peoples’ reading habits, who back in the USSR were considered as the most reading nation in the world. The quality of the books the general public reads is dwindling and hard copies as such are vanishing from people’s lives.

Over the past five years Russian people have begun to read less, but at the same time to use the Internet as a source of reading stuff far more often, an opinion poll by the national public opinion studies center VTSIOM has found. Whereas before 27% of the polled said they never read books, in 2014 the rate has been up to 27%.

Nearly half of the polled — 48% said — they liked to read. One in three Russians buys books and magazines at bookstores and from second-hand vendors. And only one in ten sometimes resorts to the services of public libraries in their hometown.

The Moscow government’s plan for pay night-time visits to city libraries is close to failure. Over the past year not a single person has turned to any of the 700 municipal libraries in Moscow for a reader’s card.

Whereas before Russians preferred to read hard-cover novels, these days they tend to buy paperback pocketbook editions. The publishers’ main emphasis these days is on standard, serial products.

“The publishers have been in alarm for the past five to ten years. Many have gone bankrupt. Hard copies are being phased out from everyday life and books representing only a very short list of genres are still present on the market,” author Leonid Kaganov told the Kommersant FM radio station.

The quality of mass-consumed literature has been changing, too. Another VTSIOM poll has found that Russians have once again named Darya Dontsova, woman author of “ironic detective stories,” still being published in half a million copies, as the author of the year. True, Dontsova emerged the winner with just 4% of the votes, but all the other authors received far less than 1%.

The love novel, police story, thriller, history novel (to be more precise, adventure novel with no traces of historical authenticity) and cheap fantasy books have topped the rankings of readers’ preferences for the past decade, the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes sociologists Nina Seliverstova and Nataliya Yumahseva as saying. “The latest changes boil down to this: transition from science fiction to fantasy and the domination of serial products very close in format to TV soap operas…” the experts said after polling students at Moscow’s universities.

“These days the reader of good quality books, of “serious” literature, and not mass-produced surrogates, is very rare,” author Denis Dragunsky told the online resource “I am referring to literature that has inherited the traditions of Russian and European classics of the 19th and 20th centuries. Literature that raises important spiritual, emotional intellectual and social problems.”

Any good novel these days is printed in two thousand copies, three thousand at the most, and even this amount sometimes proves too big. “True, exceptions do occur once in a while, but they are very rare.”

ITAR-TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors