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Number of Book Readers Down

The number of Icelanders who never read books has nearly doubled in the past four years, growing from 7 percent in 2011, to 13,3 percent in 2015. This was revealed in a recently published study undertaken by Capacent for the Icelandic Publishers’ Association.

While 86,7 percent of Icelanders still read at least one book last year, one of the highest rates of readership in the world, the drop is nonetheless a cause for concern, said Bryndís Loftsdóttir, director of the Publishers’ Association, to Vísir this morning.

“We’ve long been proud of being the world’s literary nation and ahead of the pack when it comes to reading books. That seems to be falling from under us, and we have to respond to that.”

Reykjavík was honored as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011, becoming the first such city to be named in a country where English is not the official language.

Kristín Helga Gunnarsdóttir, chair of the Writers’ Union of Iceland, called the results terrible.

“All alarm bells go off when you see this sort of information and it demands a wider response than that of writers and publishers alone. This should be an important message and tool for both government and society to use to address the issue, rather than sit on their hands.”

Kristín Helga is hopeful that these developments can be turned around with the right response, and emphasizes that it’s not only children who need to be encouraged to read, but grown-ups too. “The Minster for Education has to lead this book revolution,” said Kristín Helga.

“If we as a nation set the goal of reading three books each in 2015, we’re on a good track,” added Bryndís, hopeful.

The value-added tax on books was raised last year from 7 percent to 12 percent, a decision widely criticized by readers, writers and the publishing industry alike.

“I want to offer a reminder that there are only a few months since the VAT on books was raised, and so we should be careful about accounting for the part increased taxation might play” said Illugi Gunnarsson, Minister of Culture and Education, to Vísir when asked about the survey.

He refused to comment on whether or not a tax reduction would be considered in light of these results, but added that the effects of the tax were being carefully monitored.

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