Social Media Threatens Malaysian Reading Habit

In conjunction with UNESCO’s World Book and Copyrights Day


Friday, 22 April 2022, Cyberjaya – UNESCO sanctioned 23rd April of every year to be World Book and Copyrights day. This day is dedicated towards celebration of a society’s book reading activities, as well as a moment to reflect on the health check of a nation’s reading culture.

UNESCO encourages to use World Book and Copyrights Day as a socio-economic benchmark towards the education level of a society, as well as the prosperity of the book publishing and library industry of a certain nation.

On the same note, according to Faiz Al-Shahab, Managing Director of e-Sentral eBookstore, even though reading habits have drastically migrated from print to digital medium, it is hard to deny that reading culture of Malaysia is in dire.

“Reading does not capture the imagination of the digital native generation because this generation is trained to read via social media, and they are not trained to read long form which requires one to have longer attention span and imagination. Many out there thinks that if they can read, not illiterate, therefore they don’t have to read much anymore. What is not explained clearly to them is the importance of reading long form material like books, because this action is equivalent to exercise for your mind and thinking skills”, said Faiz.   

Faiz, 42, also stated that the activity of reading suffers from lack of time allocation due to social media monopolizing the time of our children and youth.

“In the conventional world, childrens’ time are divided to schooling hours, play time, time to watch TV, and time for homework. In between, one can still allocate reading books. Today, kids time are divided to schooling hours, time for homework, and time glued to devices and social media. Time for reading books disappears altogether”, Faiz adds. 

Besides the threat of social media stealing all the time, encouragement to read books also demised once COVID-19 affected Malaysia. Malaysian schools encourage lesser students to use libraries, hence the probability of students picking up a book is also relatively much lower than before.

When asked about how to improve this situation, Faiz states that promotion and reading campaign in the country is not effective, due to the fact that no emphasis on benefits of reading long form has been given to the public.

“We often hear that reading is good, but we hardly hear why it is compulsory to read. Malaysia need more entities to gather force and put through the importance of long form reading as it is a compulsory exercise for our minds, that long form reading triggers cognitive thinking, catalyses imagination, longer attention span, and thinking ability. Just like other organs of our body, our brain too requires exercise so that it is healthy and functioning. Reading is that exercise…”, stresses Faiz. 

“Legacy and resilience of a certain civilization heavily signified by its literature heritage, society’s knowledge, and advancement in technology. How can Malaysian civilization today sustain resiliency if its society does not have thinking ability, and drunk on social media?”, Faiz poses a question.

Faiz Al-Shahab is a digital tech figure that brought Malaysian book industry infrastructure into the digital world via e-Sentral eBookstore and ELIB digital book library. In tandem with World Book and Copyrights Day 2022, both of these platforms have received more than 1.1million local users.