“Literacy only became widespread in the mid-20th century here, so literature still isn’t given much value. While I do think that this is changing, it’s happening very slowly.”
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? My name is Rita.
- Blog URL? https://bookishr.wordpress.com
- Twitter handle? @bookishr_
- Where do you live? I live in Lisbon, Portugal!
- 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! Unfortunately, not at all! Literacy only became widespread in the mid-20th century here, so literature still isn’t given much value. While I do think that this is changing, it’s happening very slowly.
- What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? I have a lot of favorite genres! I really like almost all kinds of adult fiction, but particularly literary and historical fiction. I also read young adult, but as I get older, I find myself gravitating less toward YA novels. Adult nonfiction is also one of the genres I tend to read the most. Memoirs, biographies, political and historical commentary are my favorites.
- Have you always been a reader? Always! I was fortunate to grow up in a house full of books since my grandmother and mother were avid readers. And so they passed down the little bookworm gene to me.
- 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! To be honest, I don’t read books in Portuguese all that much. There are only a handful of Portuguese-speaking authors whose work I like, which is unfortunate. The publishing market here in Portugal is tiny, and it seems that a lot of the titles that come out are cookbooks/biographies of celebrities (think football players, actresses…), which I don’t like at all. I also don’t read books translated into Portuguese because they are so expensive. Normally, they cost at least eighteen euros (around twenty dollars), and I am being generous. Alternatively, their English counterparts, even if they are translations, are never more expensive than fifteen euros (seventeen dollars).
- 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? I’m lucky to live in the capital and to have several libraries in my city. However, they are not modernized at all. Since these libraries have mostly books in Portuguese, this means that finding new releases is hard. There are so many young adult novels I wanted to read when I was younger but couldn’t because they had never been translated into Portuguese. Also, since I don’t drive and public transportation leaves a lot to be desired here, it’s hard for me to get to the libraries in my city. They’re spread across town, but I can’t request for a book that is in a far away neighborhood to be transported to the one near me. And since there are no ebooks or audiobooks you can request to read online, I end up not using the library often. It’s really not convenient and I wish they were more modern.
- How prevalent are English published books where you live in bookstores? (For example, books printed by HarperCollins.) In bookstores, they’re quite common! The main bookstores (FNAC and Bertrand) seem to be expanding their English book section, so that makes me very happy! I find that the price of a paperback in these stores is accessible, which is a plus.
- 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 both NetGalley and Edelweiss and have very different experiences with each platform. NetGalley is my go-to for requesting ARCs because I get approved quite often. I think I have a success rate of 70%, maybe… But on Edelweiss my success rate is around 5% or so. I rarely get approved, even after completing my profile and leaving the publishers personal messages explaining why I would want to read and review a particular book.
- Do you experience hurdles or barriers to access for the kinds of books that you read? Please explain if so. There is always the financial hurdle. I’m fortunate enough to have a good living, but I am a person who likes to save as much as possible for my future. Being in university and wanting to pursue a Master’s abroad means I save most of the money I earn. So, having a more efficient library nearby would be my dream. Even if we could only get e-book versions of the books we request, I would still be over the moon.
- If you could make one change to the publishing landscape, what would you do? Ah, this is a great question! If I could, I would make Portugal into a country that loves to read fiction, so that the publishing industry would grow… I would also change how the Brazilian and Portuguese publishing industries work together. Brazil has a much larger industry than we do, but Brazilian books can’t just circulate freely in Portugal since they need to be adapted to our language first. If we could make cooperation better, we would have so many more books available to us!
- Help other international bloggers out… What resources do you use to obtain the books that you want to read? For classics, the Gutenberg Project is my go-to resource. Being a literature major, this helps me a lot! Aside from that, I buy most of my books online through Book Depository. They don’t charge shipping and dispatch their orders to most countries. Plus, the prices aren’t too high and they have sales very often.
- Do you have any other experiences as a reader around the world that you would like to share? I wish English-speakers (and everyone, really) would read more books that have been translated. There are some Portuguese books I would love to scream about on my blog but don’t because I know people don’t really pay attention to translations. However, this is changing, which makes me super happy!
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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