Internet services gained a solid foothold in Thailand in the mid-90’s. In the early days, web access was via the telephone network using dial-up modems. But more advanced internet technology today means access is made wirelessly at home or in the office and on mobile phones. The number of internet users in the country increased rapidly from seven million in 2004 to 18 million in 2013. A survey by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry found Thai people spend an average of 7.2 hours per day, or one third of their day, surfing the net.
Internet usage previously was done on PCs and laptops, then people moved steadily toward handheld mobile devices, i.e., smartphones and tablets, with choices of operating systems being launched in 2007 that included Android by Google, iOS by Apple and Kindle e-book readers by Amazon. In 2010, Apple released the first iPad. Thailand’s mobile internet usage now exceeds PC usage.
A comparison of Thais’ reading through different media channels: A National Statistical Office survey
A survey on Thai people’s reading habits conducted by the National Statistical Office showed the number of people reading on mobile devices increased from 0.3% in 2011 to 1.8% in 2013, or two times greater within two years. The number of those reading information on PCs in 2013 was three times higher in 2013 while there were slightly fewer people reading printed materials. This indicated that IT devices were not affecting hard copy reading, but were offering more reading options with electronic devices.
Research studies in several countries suggest digital environments in which people can connect to the information world anytime and anywhere directly changes reading behavior. New generation people tend to read what they deem is useful to them. Search engines bring to the screen exactly what they are looking for in seconds, at the click of a mouse click. They are more likely to focus on scanning for keywords when reading a screen; in other words, they use a non-linear reading method. Traditional deep reading is on the decline.
Eye movements of new generation
Pakorn Santisoonthornkul, the founder of the education website Dek-D.com, is concerned that some new generation people are becoming “cursory readers” in the digital age as websites value speed over content quality. This, he contends creates bad reading habits.
“They access information whenever they want by clicking a search engine and then reading web-based resources in a shallow, superficial manner,” Mr Pakorn said.
“We can see that news and articles fed to the social networks are sometimes not of a high quality and are focused on [instant access] and creating a social buzz.”
He said there must be efforts to ensure that digital content providers make more of a commitment to quality content. He believes the situation will improve as websites that produce consistently low-quality content will eventually alienate their readers.
Online reading stopped being a one-way communication between web developers and end users with the arrival of Web 2.0 technologies. Readers were finally able to post comments, share information and create their own content. The online reader community has grown significantly as a result. For example, readers not only read novels written by amateur teen writers on website Dek-D.com but also provide constructive criticism of them. A group of booklovers, who called themselves “Immortalbook”, also share their “good books” and stories on the social media and shipping them to people wanting to read them by post.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway in Thai is posted on the Facebook page of Immortalbook. Six people are placed in a queue to borrow it and each has a day to read it. (Photo from www.facebook.com/Immortalbook)
“A 2014 Survey on Internet Usage Behavior in Thailand”, Electronic Transactions Development Agency (Public Organization), the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry.
“Household Use of Information and Communication Technology: 2004-2013”, National Statistical Office, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry.
An abstract from a research paper titled: “Reading behavior in the digital environment: Changes in reading behavior over the past ten years” published onhttp://www.emeraldinsight.com/