There are plans to set up an official National Reading Day in Vietnam to encourage the once strong Vietnamese fondness for reading.

The idea was discussed on Monday at a conference at Hanoi National Library.

Nguyen Kiem, deputy president of the Vietnam Publishers Association, said April 21 should be chosen as Reading Day because it had often been used for World Book and Copyright Day organised by UNESCO.

According to experts, Reading Day might counter the decreasing interest in reading among Vietnamese.

While major bookstores in the country are still crowded, fewer people are buying.

Last year, 27,000 book titles were published in Vietnam, creating nearly 294 million copies. This was a seven percent increase on the same period last year.

Half of the 64 publishing houses in the country made profits of about VND100 millions (US$5,000). Six made VND1 billion.

"Statistics show people buy more books, even though they may not read more often," said Le Hong Ly, head of the Institute of Folk Culture Studies.

He said the number of people who used the institute's library for research was continually falling.

In 2008, there were 278 researchers, while in 2012, there have been only 56 people so far.

The number of students who read books is also modest. Normally, they only read books in the libraries of their universities during exams. But, after exams, the libraries are often deserted.

"Most students read books just for exams. They don't want to spend time reading to gain extra knowledge. And they rarely read books that might change their lives and their thinking," said an employee at Hanoi National Library.

According to Le Bich Hong, from the Party Central Committee's education commission, many children are not encouraged to read.

She said a recent survey by the Children's Literature Centre at the Hanoi University of Education revealed that money spent on newspapers amounted to only two percent of total monthly family expenses.

Statistics show that the most-read books are compilations of cartoons (60 percent of surveyed people), followed by short stories (50 percent), and translated books (35 percent). On average, a reader buys 2.7 books a year.

According to literature researcher Phan Trong Thuong, the reading culture in Vietnam is declining as in other parts of the world. The rapid development of the internet, music and electronic games are blamed for the reversal.-VNA