Do Arabs Really Read Less? “Cultural Tools” and “More Knowledgeable Others” as Determinants of Book Reliance in Six Arab Countries

Justin D. Martin, Ralph J. Martins, Shageaa Naqvi


Book reading in the Arab region is believed to be lower than in regions of similar economic status, but this has not been tested using nationally representative data. This study used the sociocultural theory of learning, particularly the concepts of “more knowledgeable others” and “cultural tools,” to examine influences on Arabs’ reported book reliance. The study examined print and e-book reliance among Internet users in six Arab countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (Arab respondents n = 3,510; Western and Asian expatriates n = 989). Arab respondents in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, countries with large numbers of expatriates, reported lower book reliance than Asian or Western expatriates, but this was not the case in Qatar. Although numbers of expatriates suitable for similar comparisons were not among data samples collected in Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia, Arab respondents in those countries did nonetheless report markedly lower book reliance than non-Arabs elsewhere in the region. Use of news apps and reliance on in-person conversations for news positively predicted reliance, whereas time spent in person with family and friends and frequency of social media posts were negative predictors.


book reading, sociocultural theory, Arab region, Middle East, e-books

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