Gül Sılacı and Reyhan Tutumlu, master students at Bilkent's Department of Turkish Literature, put this difficult question on Turkey's cultural agenda last month. It is certainly impossible to know for sure how many people read how many books. However, general cultural trends can be assessed through careful analysis of available statistics. Thus, in a study initiated and directed by Dr. Süha Oğuzertem, a member of the departmental faculty, Sılacı and Tutumlu have compiled statistical data on book publications in Turkey from 1939 to 1999. The study, based on the "Bibliography of Turkey" and data obtained from the Directorate of Book Collections, reveals startling results. Most significantly, it discloses that the rates of book publication have remained at about the same level throughout the history of the Republic despite the steady expansion of urbanization, the extraordinary increase in literacy and schooling, and the development of the use of advanced technology throughout the society.
Sılacı and Tutumlu's research focuses on the annual statistics of the number of book titles since this is the only data available. That is, the actual book production rates are excluded. Since observers note that production rates in the book industry have also declined in recent years (from about five thousand in the seventies to about one thousand in the nineties), the present status of actual book reading in Turkey might be even worse than what the table here suggests.
"Do People Read in Turkey?" has been widely covered in the media and continues to receive attention. The research article has been featured in the January 2001 editions of Kanat (bulletin of the Department of Turkish Literature), Cumhuriyet Kitap, E dergisi, Edebiyat ve Eleştiri, Politika, Türk Dili, and Varlık. Bilim ve Ütopya and Papirüs magazines both featured the article in their February 2001 editions. Noted columnist Doğan Hızlan, of the daily Hürriyet, discussed the study conducted by Sılacı and Tutumlu on January 22, 2001. Cumhuriyet, Milli Gazete, Radikal, Yeni Asya, Yeni Mesaj, Yeni Şafak, and Zaman all featured the Sılacı-Tutumlu study as reported by the Anatolian News Agency, on their culture pages on January 22 and 23, 2001. On the internet site "ideefixe", there was significant commentary during late January and early February. Sılacı and Tutumlu were also invited as guest speakers on Demokrasi Kuşağı (Segment of Democracy), a cultural program on Radyo İmaj. If you have not seen the study yet, get a copy of Kanat from the Department of Turkish Literature and read it soon.