Czechs - Europe's biggest bookworms

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The times when Czechs spent hours in queues waiting for newly published books and passed around forbidden publications are long gone. Nowadays, bookshops are packed with books of all kinds and you can get almost anything you like - without waiting, but for significantly higher prices. However, Czechs enjoy reading as much as ever. According to a recent survey conducted by the Czech National Library, they rank among the most avid readers in Europe.

This week, the Czech National Library together with the Institute of Czech Literature published the results of a survey conducted among Czech adult readers this year. According to the poll, Czechs spent on average 41 minutes a day with a book, which is more than any other Europeans. There is also one of the highest numbers of readers in the Czech Republic, Jiri Travnicek of the Institute of Czech Literature explains.

"Our main criterion, which is used generally, is one book read per year. From this point of view Czech population has 83 percent of readers and 17 percent of non-readers. On the average Czechs read 60 books per year and they spent 1300 CZK per year. On average, European Union has 42 percent of non-readers and we have 17 percent of non-readers."

Another oddity of the Czech reading public is a significant difference between the number of female and male readers.

"The difference is huge, I must say. It is eleven percent. 88 percent of women are readers but only 77 percent of men are readers. That is a huge difference say for central Europe. As far as expectations are concerned, men prefer to read for the sake of information and women for the sake of amusement."

Visiting a Czech family, you will be quite probably impressed by their home library, which contains on average some 270 books. Why are Czechs so keen on reading? Experts say it is mostly a legacy of the communist past, when books represented a certain kind of freedom and other forms of entertainment were scarce.

"It has very much to do with Communist regime, because books and home libraries, which is a pride of Czech people, were a very strong cultural phenomenon in this era. As far as reading is concerned, the situation before the Velvet revolution was like this. For example samizdat and exile publishing houses were very appreciated among the readers. Also have an experience of the 1960s. The 1960s was a golden age for reading and culture. Three generations are touched by the spirit of the sixties."

By the way, the results of the survey were published on the occasion of the annual Week of Libraries, which serves to promote libraries among the general public. Many Czech libraries have proclaimed a special amnesty for those who forgot to turn in their books in time - they can do it this week without having to pay a fine.