Buying books in Malaysia (and around the world)


From this report, you’ll learn where, when and why Malaysians buy books and which country earned the title of the most reading nation.

Throughout history, since the invention of printing, books have been one of the most important sources of information about the surrounding world. Although now the Internet has taken the lead, books continue to be the source of not only knowledge but also ideas and inspiration.

The World Book and Copyright Day established by UNESCO has been celebrated for just several decades. This relatively new holiday served as an inspiration for Analysis Team to check how, when, why and whether at all Malaysians buy books and how readers feel about literature.

When we buy books

The considerable number of online bookstores is the best evidence that Malaysians buy books. Dry statistics show that the demand for books in online bookstores rises the most in September and October (11% of all annual transactions each). A significant decrease in the interest is noted in April and August (6% each).

The demand for books in Malaysia

What makes us buy books

We conducted a survey among Malaysians to learn how they buy books. We did not try to determine the number of people who read. The most important purpose of our study is to understand consumer trends in the area of literature.

From where do Malaysians get books? 53% declared that they buy books in bookstores. Borrowing from libraries is less popular (16%), as is borrowing from friends (only 9%). The remaining 22% admitted that they don’t read much or are not interested in books at all.

We asked the question: “Did you buy at least one book last year?” — the answer was positive for 78% of women and 74% of men. These respondents were our target group — we asked them questions about preferred types of books, place of purchase and favourite genres.

How, when and why Malaysians buy books

Buying books in the form of audiobooks is getting more popular with every passing year. However, in Malaysia, audiobooks still don’t get a lot of recognition. Over the past year, digital or CD audiobooks were bought by 5% and 3% of respondents respectively. It’s paper books that are the most popular among Malaysian readers. 54% of respondents ordered books online and 46% bought books in brick and mortar stores.

Many people buy books because of their own tastes and decisions (37%). Friends’ recommendations play a big part (50%), as do the releases of movies based on the book (29%) and book prize nominations (11%). In light of the growing popularity of the Internet and social media, bloggers’ reviews also play an important role (28%). Bargain price was chosen as the determining factor by 53% of the surveyed. 8% of the respondents think that book prices are excessive or way too high. 45% declared that the prices are acceptable.

Why do Malaysians buy books? Most of them do it because they simply love reading (48%). One fifth (20%) buy books for studies or work and 14% as a gift. 18% of respondents declared that the act of buying books is a stress remedy for them (we decided not to ask whether they actually read these books).

The most popular genres

Most readers choose fiction (76%). Well liked among Malaysians are also hobbies literature and non-fiction (53% and 36% respectively).

There’s nothing surprising in the fact that the readers prefer fiction over non-fiction books. The wide range of genres to choose from makes it easier for readers around the world to find something they will like. Among the most popular genres are thrillers, romance, crime fiction, comics and adventure literature. Classical literature and poetry are the least favourite ones.

A majority of people (59%) buy books occasionally — a few times a year. 19% of respondents are willing to buy books once a month.

Most of the surveyed (78%) are content with the books available on the market. 22% of respondents are of the opinion that Malaysian publishing houses do not publish enough titles.

The least reading nation?

It should be stressed that the purpose of our study is not to determine the most reading nation in the world. However, we can identify countries where books are bought the most frequently. These are Turkey, Russia and Spain. Malaysia placed quite high as 76% of people bought at least one book over the past year. At the bottom of the ranking were countries like Germany, Finland and Singapore.

Buying books around the world


This report is based on the internal data of a global e-commerce platform regarding transactions in online bookstores and a survey conducted in March 2019 among 7800 respondents from 41 countries.

Public Use

Are you willing to share the information and infographics about buying books in Malaysia and around the world with your readers? Feel free to use all the data and infographics presented in this report for both commercial and non-commercial purposes as long as you indicate the author of the research ( with a link to this subpage.