It’s been awhile since I’ve had the time to delve into a discussion post, but I reckon it’s about time I did it. It’s kind of a good timing to talk about this theme, because I think that the difficulties of being an international reader and blogger and lost on a lot of people, not because they’re understand it, but because it’s not their reality, you know?
I will start by the one HUGE problem of being an INTERNATIONAL READER: ACCESS TO BOOKS!
Yeah yeah… scoff away… it’s ok. Before I became a voracious reader, I would scoff too. But then I wanted to read The Mortal Instruments, and I could only find book 1 and 3 at my nearest (HUGE) bookstore, and I realized that it is a problem.
If you don’t live in the US, UK or Australia, you might have come face to face with this problem: You don’t have access to the books you want. Sure, it can happen to anyone, but you can find the more popular books anywhere in the US, you can find them in supermarkets in the UK, and I’m guessing it’s not that hard in Australia either.
So, what are the problems in the rest of the world? Let’s talk about it a bit, ok?
The first logical way to buy a book is going to a bookstore and just get it, right?
But if you live in, say, Portugal or Spain – my experience – I can tell you that buying a physical book can be tough. I mean, not if you’re looking for Harry Potter, or the latest thriller that’s on the cinema at the moment, but you won’t be able to find a new release… anywhere.
You can even facilitate things for yourself and read in english (that’s what most of us bloggers do, right?), but even then, where do you buy it?
I can tell you ONE chain store in Portugal that carries YA books in english, but they only get the new releases a few weeks after, and even so, it’s not a certain thing. Where I was living in Barcelona it was slightly easier because I found an all-english bookstore, and they carried a lot of new releases, from all genre, so that was very cool. And in either place you can simply order it, and the store will get it for you. The problem? THE PRICE!
While books in english are WAY CHEAPER than their translated counterparts, the import increment makes them inaccessible sometimes. For instance, see the example of Fangirl, and its prices in physical stores. Look at that difference!
Of course, you can counter it by ordering online, and there you have places like The Book Depository or Amazon, and you can get better competitive prices. Still, while TBD doesn’t charge you for shipping, the delivery times are iffy, at best, and the timings depend a lot on where in the globe you are located. Then you have Amazon, and if you’re lucky to have one in your country, you might be able to get free shipping too, and let me tell you: I LOVE THIS. Spain has Amazon, and has free shipping for book orders over 19€, which we all know it’s not hard to get to.
Still, keep in mind that I’m talking about difficulties in two developed european countries, I can’t even fathom the difficulties that some readers from more remote locations might face.
With all of this in mind though, spending even 10€ on paperback is not easy, when you go through them in a day or two. I had months of reading 20 books, and even working, it would have been impossible for me to sustain that on a regular basis.
Which leads me to the other great option that international readers have: the ebooks!
Let me tell you, my life changed when I bought my kindle, and it changed again when I found the kindle app for my phone. Kindles rock! Pure and simple.
Still, picking the example of Fangirl above, do you know that the kindle edition costs around 11€ in the US kindle store? YEAH. 11€!!! That’s a lot for an ebook, right?
See, buying in the kindle store takes time and patience if you don’t want to spend the big bucks. You can wait for deals, which is usually what I do, and get the books at a much more attractive price, BookBub is great for this hunting down of deals. But this means you won’t have the books you want, when you want them. Decisions… Decisions…
Because I read a lot of New Adult, finding free kindle books, or great kindle deals, is easier, and even the full priced books are not usually terrible expensive, because most of them are self published. But if you read YA, fantasy or sci-fi, buying ebooks might end up being as expensive as buying the physical copies, the only difference is the no-waiting period to enjoy your book.
By this time you’re probably wondering: “Ok Cristina, buying is expensive, we get that, but what about libraries?“.
Well… keep in mind that most of the world countries do not speak english as a first language. Ok, now think about this: most books out there are published in english. YA is not a popular genre in some countries, and others ban certain subjects on principal. So… do you think our libraries carry a lot of those books or new releases? Either in english or the translated edition?
Think again… they don’t.
Here in Portugal, most libraries have a huge technical books’ collection, or didactic books. Most will have all the classics, then all the books that have become big movies, like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games… they might even have 50 Shades of Gray. But they won’t carry Simon, or Fangirl, or even The Mortal Instruments. They won’t have Sarah J. Maas or contemporary reads about mental illness or disabilities.
And I can bet that this is true for most countries where english is not the first language.
So, how can we, international readers, depend on libraries for our reading necessities? Very simply, we can’t.
Borrowing physical books is out of the equation, so what about ebook libraries? Or lending services?
This would be the perfect solution, right? If we could have one giant online library that would serve the world, which allowed us to borrow ebooks for a limited time… yeah…
Platforms live OverDrive, that allow you to connect to online libraries all over the world, doesn’t work all over the world. I know. I tried. Most services and platforms like this don’t actually work outside of the US.
Then there’s the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which I think it’s awesome, because if I spent money on this book, why can’t I lend it to my friend? We do it with physical books all the time. I was even lucky enough to be the receiver of Deanna @A Novel Glimpse‘s books, she lent me the whole Falling series by Ginger Scott through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (THANK YOU FOR THAT DEANNA!!!). But while this is really great, I can’t ever do the same. Why? Because I live outside of the US, and while you can lend your US books to foreign friend abroad, said friends cannot return the favor. Heck, I can’t even lend my kindle books to my next door neighbor.
It came to the point that I wanted Cátia @The Girl Who Read Too Much to read a lot of my kindle books, so I her borrow my KINDLE device. Yeah, Aelin is with Catia… I trust her ;-). Still, we could do this because we live in the same city and I trust her. I wouldn’t be able to do this with anyone else.
This is clearly a problem.
Our local libraries suffer from the same problem as mentioned above, they just don’t have the titles in their collection, so even if they have the ebook lending system, they won’t have the titles you’re dying to read.
Kindle Unlimited or other platforms like this might solve your “book quantity” problem, but by now, will you really be surprised if I tell you that I can’t access this feature?
I use the US kindle store, because Portugal doesn’t have one, and the US one is the cheapest one, so it’s the one for me. But it recognizes that I’m not physically in the US, so it tell me “NO CAN DO!”. So when I am living in Spain, I can actually access their platform, but I will need to change my base store to the spanish one, and I’ll be losing most of the kindle deals and the prices will be higher. Not an easy choice, right?
So, after reading all this, you know that being a reader sometimes isn’t easy. You might be lucky and be able to fill your bookshelves, and that’s honestly awesome. Or you might adapt your reading habits, and be super attentive to all the kindle deals out there. Or, like me, 80-90% or your reads might be ARCs from Netgalley or kindle free books.
But one thing’s for certain: having access to books is not easy in some places of the world.