Young people like to read books, but in English

Now that the Boekenweek is in full swing, Dutch literature is in the spotlight. But if you ask the Dutch youngsters, English books are massively preferred. The sales figures are through the roof and videos of English-language books are shared on social media for an audience of millions.

Atessa, Stefan, Lisa and Piene are four high school students with a passion for reading. They have a clear preference. “There are more English books I know and more people I know read English,” Atessa says. Moreover, they are more in line with what she likes.

The four young reading enthusiasts are unanimous in their preference for the English book. “I really read English books for pleasure and not because it is mandatory,” Piene says.

Caroline Bosch of the Waanders bookshop in de Broere in Zwolle saw the English fiction department grow from three bookcases to an entire floor in just a few months. “Whole herds of young people come in here. Six, seven, eight at a time. I also see groups explaining books to each other or showing each other screenshots on their phones,” says Bosch.

There has been a clear trend in recent years, says Eveline Aendekerk, director of the CPNB, an organization that is committed to the Dutch book. “Sales of books in other languages ​​have increased by almost 50 percent since 2017.” Research by CPNB shows that one in six books sold in 2021 was spoken in a foreign language.


“We know of young people who want to read that they find it difficult to choose a suitable book,” says Aendekerk. “Foreign publishers of English-language books do that well. They are all on social media.”

According to booksellers, an important part of the success is the so-called BookTok, part of the social platform TikTok. “In it, especially American and British young people show what they read and what they thought of it. And that is extremely popular,” says Bosch. “It’s so popular that I made a special BookTok table. All in English.”

English-language authors also differ from the Dutch in terms of content. “I think that English writers dare to experiment a little more with self-invented worlds and self-invented figures. And that it is just a little more detached from reality as we know it,” says Stefan. “For example, I really enjoy reading fantasy books like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.”

But room for diversity and gender roles also play an important role in the preference for English-language books, say students. “Anglophone authors are more likely to write from a female or queer perspective,” Piene says.

The design of the books also plays a role, from brightly colored and exuberant to so-called chic leather bounds, bound in imitation leather. Moreover, the books are often cheaper than Dutch ones.

‘The Dutch reading list is demotivating’

According to the young people, education can learn a lot from this approach. “The Dutch reading list demotivates me to read in Dutch. When I read in Dutch, it feels like I have to choose the list,” says Stefan. “I honestly think that books can be just as addictive as looking at your phone, if only it doesn’t feel so forced,” Atessa said.

The core that many young people read in English is positive, says Eveline Aendekerk. “They read! But let’s also learn from that as a Dutch book trade.”

She suspects that this will improve if young people are given Dutch titles more actively. “For example, we organize the Boekenweek for young people and work with popular Dutch BookTokkers, gamers and influencers. Dutch publishers and authors are also tackling this. It is developing enormously.”

Young people like to read books, but in English
Source link Young people like to read books, but in English

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