At present reading for pleasure is noticeably less popular among the young than the middle aged. Due to the rise of digital technology, young people are more likely to spend their time on social media rather than reading, say local pundits.

Many feared that this lamentable scenario would lead to poorer literacy among the young. However, attitudes towards reading seem to be changing, say a number of authors, who believe more teenagers are picking up books.

December 9 marked the opening day of the 9th National Book Fair, returning from a two Covid-19-induced hiatus. Many youths attended the event, enjoying the chance to meet their favourite authors and pick up new books.

An author who displayed her work expressed her excitement at the return of the fair.

Seng Gekly, who writes inspiring and educational books, said she was pleased to see an increase in the number of stalls at the fair. In years gone by, there was an average of 100 displays.

But at this year’s event, there are almost 200. She put the increase down to the growing number of readers in the Kingdom.

“From my observations, the youth are beginning to read more and more. I think they are beginning to understand the benefit of reading more widely,” she said.

She offered her own experience as an example of the power of reading.

At one point, she suffered from crippling depression, but overcame it through the knowledge she gained from books, she explained.

“Reading improves people’s knowledge without the need for a teacher,” she added.

The Khmer Writers’ Association was displaying 130 titles at the exhibition.

Proeung Pronit, president of the association, also observed the increase in the number of booths. He also noted work by many new authors and as well as increased support from young people.

“Older titles seem to be selling less well than new ones. I am not sure if this reflects changing tastes or the fact that many of the older works are still in circulation among the public,” he said.

“I have seen a lot more people passing through than in previous years, but whether this will result in an increase in sales, I cannot say. I hope that reading continues to grow in popularity,” he added.

A fourth-year student at the National University of Management (NUM) – and a book lover – visited the exhibition booths. According to Kong Madini, this is the fifth time he has attended the fair. He said he had definitely not seen this many visitors in previous visits.

“Based on the number of attendees, more and more young people are interested in reading for pleasure. My friends and I read far more than we used to, and I would consider us fairly typical examples of young people,” he said.

The 9th National Book Fair was held at the National Library from December 9-11. This year’s theme was “Read one day, know one day.” It aimed to instill reading habits into the minds of younger Cambodians.