Welcome to Reading Around the Globe, a new series here on Reader Voracious Blog geared at fostering a culture of understanding in the bookish community about access to books in various countries around the world. Each post in the series highlights a full interview with one international reader. You can read more about this series here on the series master post.
- What is your name? Kate
- Blog URL? thebackwardsbookshelf.wordpress.com
- Twitter handle? @bckwrdsbookshlf
- Where do you live? Manila, Philippines
- Do you find that there is a culture of reading where you live? If not, tell us a bit how you came to be one! As any Filipino can tell you, the answer to this question is very complicated.
I would say that for the middle and upper class – basically anyone with access to education and who can afford the disposable income – yes, there is indeed a culture of reading. Growing up, my friends and I all had access to and loved reading books of all genres: classics, young adult, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, etc. But, to be honest, this was less a result of a cultural proclivity for reading, and more due to the fact that we came from comfortably middle class families that could a) afford to send us to schools that taught us how to appreciate and enjoy reading as an activity in and of itself; and b) actually afford books.The question I personally am interested in asking is this: if all children in the Philippines had access to the resources necessary to making reading for its own sake a plausible way to spend time, would there be a culture of reading in the Philippines?
- What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? To be honest, there’s not a lot I don’t enjoy reading. I generally don’t touch sci-fi and fantasy written by straight white men (unless they were recommended to me by a friend whose taste I deeply trust) because there’s a ton of toxicity and sexism there that I just really don’t care enough to find the time to unpack.
- Have you always been a reader? Yes, but again, see my answer to question 5.
- Do you also read books published in your native language/published locally to you? If so, tell us a bit about what kinds of books are published in your country! Now this is an interesting question. Yes, these books are available. Widely so, in fact. But here we have another facet of the Philippine socioeconomic landscape that gets in the way of reading: novels published in Tagalog and other Filipino languages are often looked down on or derided as not being “as good” as novels published in English.
There’s this whole notion of a huge premium placed on being able to read, speak, and write in English leftover from our days when we were an American colony (a period which left us with so many imperialist issues that affect literally everything from policy-making to aesthetics/beauty) that books in our native languages, no matter how well written, are not as valued or hyped. The conception is that if you buy books written in Tagalog or other Filipino languages, you aren’t “educated enough” to understand English books.I fully admit that even though I’m a book blogger championing diverse lit and representation, the only novels I’ve read in Tagalog are the classics I was required to read for lit classes in high school (Ibong Adarna, Florante at Laura, and Rizal’s books Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo for anyone who wants to check them out).
- Are there libraries where you live? If so, what kinds of books can you find there? Are you able to get the books that you want? There are libraries, but they’re not very well stocked. They’re usually just devoted to academic resources. There are a few libraries that stock fiction, but they’re not updated, and these libraries are often located inside private universities, schools, or collections.
- How prevalent are English published books where you live in bookstores? (For example, books printed by HarperCollins.) Very prevalent, but we still don’t get a ton of other titles that are available in the States, Canada, UK, or Australia.
- Do you use NetGalley or Edelweiss to request electronic galleys for review? If so, what kind of success rate would you estimate for you personally? I use NetGalley, but I’ve honestly lost interest because of their unfair policy of not giving certain e-ARCs to certain countries. (Like, really? ELECTRONIC COPIES? Comme des fuck on!). I stopped using Edelweiss because I literally never got approved for anything.
- Do you experience hurdles or barriers to access for the kinds of books that you read? Please explain if so. Cost is definitely a huge barrier. I took a trip to California and New York last June to visit some family and found that the price differences in books can range from $5 to $10 (around ₱300 to ₱500). Prices are pretty steep, and I’m saying this as someone with a full time job and a somewhat higher tax bracket. Can you imagine the difficulty someone from a lower income household or a younger reader who’s still a student would have?
- If you could make one change to the publishing landscape, what would you do? I would make publishers a lot more free with giving out e-ARCs to international bloggers. We understand that making physical ARCs and sending them out costs a lot of money that may or may not be recouped, but e-ARCs aren’t bound by those same risks. It would help get books to a lot of small-time or lower income readers and international readers without having to resort to piracy.
- Help other international bloggers out… What resources do you use to obtain the books that you want to read? Thrift shops, book swaps with international bloggers who live in my area, bookstores’ annual sales, book fairs, and Kindle deals. My friend Shealea actually compiled a list of Kindle deals here.
- Do you have any other experiences as a reader around the world that you would like to share? N/A
Please note that all experiences reflected in the interviews are personal and are not meant to generalize what reading access is like in each country. If you are interested in participating please DM me on Twitter.