Welcome to Reading Around the Globe, a 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 and catch up on previous interviews on the master post.
- What is your name? Annemieke
- Blog URL? http://adancewithbooks.wordpress.com
- Twitter handle? @signourney
- Where do you live? The Netherlands
- 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! I do think there is a bit of a reading culture in the Netherlands. There is certainly a lot of effort to get people reading from a young age. I signed my son up for the library for free when he was only a few months old (it will be free until he is 18). It is a program called book start where you also get a little suit case with a few books in it to keep when you sign up for the library. There are also book start mornings where someone reads to a small group of kids under 4 and they sometimes have workshops about what kind of books best to read to what age and what reading tips for what age. We also have a few book weeks throughout the year that promote books in general, thriller, children’s books or young adult.And still I hear a lot of people talk about how little people in their circle of adults read these days. I guess it has to do with making reading a priority which is not something a lot of people do.
- What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? I am a big fantasy reader.
- Have you always been a reader? My mother took me to the library since I was born so pretty much. Even before I could read I would thumb through picture books. My son does that now too. It is fun to see. There have been periods where I didn’t read as much, mainly in high school and college. But I have returned to it.
- 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! A lot of the books that are being published are translated when it comes to fantasy and young adult which are the two things I gravitate towards. It is harder for Dutch authors in those sections. In other genres and sections like contemporary, romance and mystery there are quite a few more Dutch authors to be found. I try and keep an eye out on what is getting translated. Some things get translated really quickly which surprise me like Sky in the Deep and other times it takes ages for certain authors to be picked up like Victoria Schwab. Not every series gets translated to completion which can make it hard on those that only read in Dutch. Some Dutch authors I have on my shelves and keep my eye on are Jen Minkman, Adrian Stone (alias), Jurgen Snoeren, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (from Hex that was translated, and rewritten, to English) just to name a few.
- 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? Yes we have libraries. Up to the age of 18 this is free. Sometimes if you are a college student it is also free. Other than that we have to pay once a year. I paid 40+ euro if I remember correctly for a basic subscription. That means I can take out 15 books at a time and can reserve without paying. I do have to pay a euro for every movie I borrow.
The selection focuses almost entirely on Dutch and Dutch translated books. Looking at my own library there is a small section with English books but these are often classics, mystery or romance. So the only books I can really get that I want internationally are when they are translated. And our fantasy section isn’t exactly huge. Even so I can get other books from libraries in my area through reservation.
- How prevalent are English published books where you live in bookstores? (For example, books printed by HarperCollins.) Most book stores these days have an English section but it depends on each book seller in how much they care for it in what they have. Most often this is one maybe two shelves. There is only one distributor of English books in the Netherlands. In general the sections aren’t very big in the average book stores. Sometimes recent releases are present, other times not. Rarely do you see English hardcovers in the book stores. Amsterdam does have a few book stores completely in English like Waterstones and The American Book Center (also in The Hague). They only sell books in English. Some bigger book stores like Donner Rotterdam also have larger sections of English books and they try to have the latest releases when possible. There is by the way also a Harper Collins Holland that publishes books in Dutch. 😉
- 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? Okay Edelweiss and I do not get along. 0% Success Rate. To be fair I have requested maybe 8 there? Netgalley is different. I think my success rate is about 75% there. I try hard to request books I suspect I’d get. Or with publishers that have approved books for me in the past. Obviously there are also a butt load of books that I can’t even request because of the region restriction.
- Do you experience hurdles or barriers to access for the kinds of books that you read? Please explain if so. Sometimes it can be hard to get certain books. Especially if you are like me and you do not order books online internationally (no paypal or credit card). I read a book that I could only get as an ebook but there is no way to get the second book because the ebook is not available anywhere. It sucks. As someone who reads in English I think I do have less hurdles than some of my fellow country readers who only read in Dutch. Dutch books are more expensive (set book price). A lot does not get translated or series don’t get translated in full. This also means that I have to buy a lot of books because they just aren’t available in my library. But I am also aware that I still live in a very well off western country which comes with a lot of privilege.
- If you could make one change to the publishing landscape, what would you do?
I wish some arcs could be send more towards the target groups they are meant for like teens, poc, lgbtq+ and so on. I understand why very popular bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers get sent them in boxes full, exposure. But knowing if a book is harmful, had good rep, that should top just exposure. And in the end I think that kind of attention, exposure will do better for a book in the long run.
- Help other international bloggers out… What resources do you use to obtain the books that you want to read? If you are in Europe, try UK Netgalley. My chances are a little higher there than on the US one. Amazon offers up a lot of freebies and you can download the kindle app on your phone or tablet. Sign up for author’s newsletters. There are a lot of lesser known authors who offer up the first book when you sign up for their newsletter. Sign up for the Tor newsletter. I’ve gotten a few ebook freebies that way, including Every Heart a Doorway! If you live near the Netherlands or ever want to visit here, Deventer has one of the largest book markets every year where you can find (second-hand) books cheaper. I even found a signed Jonathan Stroud last year! This year it is on August 5th. It generally is around that same date every year. Drawing a blank because other things like where to find cheaper books are country specific and not helpful to anyone outside of my country.
- Do you have any other experiences as a reader around the world that you would like to share? Listen to other people when they tell you that they do not have access to a library. They don’t make that up. Don’t respond with go out and fight for a library and all because that is such a western standpoint and that is just not possible in every country around the world. Different cultures. Different political climates. Stop looking at everything through your own western and privilege tinted glasses. And just listen.
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.
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