Reading Around the Globe: Annemieke in The Netherlands

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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.

  1. What is your name? Annemieke
  2. Blog URL? http://adancewithbooks.wordpress.com
  3. Twitter handle? @signourney
  4. Where do you live? The Netherlands
  5. 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.
  6. What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? I am a big fantasy reader.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

  10. 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. 😉
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

  14. 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.
  15. 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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32 Comments

  1. Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites

    February 16, 2019 at 3:46 PM

    libraries are such a great resource for those who do have them (though it sucks that you have to pay to use yours), and book start sounds like an awesome program! and I absolutely agree that own voices should take precedence over exposure for new releases, that’s definitely something publishing as an industry needs to work on.

    thank you so much for sharing, Annemieke 💕 (and as always, shoutout to Kal for continuing this series)

    1. Annemieke

      February 17, 2019 at 12:05 AM

      Yes we certainly can’t complain about what we are offered here. Book start is also just great for the social interactions it gives to moms who are finding it hard to have them.

      <3

  2. Destiny @ Howling Libraries

    February 17, 2019 at 9:33 AM

    I love Annemieke, so this was so much fun to read! I honestly am 100% guilty of forgetting how different libraries are in non-US places (or how they might not exist at all), so sometimes I need that reminder to shut up and listen. I appreciated that a lot. ♥

  3. Michelle

    February 17, 2019 at 12:50 PM

    I’m so mad at the libraries in the Netherlands since I seem to live in a town where it’s super expensive and is not part of the national library system :(. I guess the reading experience has been a bit different for me. I worked in a bookstore that had to close down a while back due to people not buying enough, so while libraries are great, I do think they’re endangering bookstores (I’m just still salty, I loved my job xD )

    1. Laurie

      February 18, 2019 at 3:07 AM

      TBH the libraries here are super expensive too, in The Hague area.

    2. Annemieke

      February 18, 2019 at 4:53 AM

      I’m sorry about your job! I don’t agree that they endanger bookstores at all though. I think they work quite well next to each other to make reading available. Because not everyone can afford to buy every book, especially not when the economy went down as it did. How much do you have to pay for the library a year? I know there is a difference per library but I have no idea how much that can be.

  4. thebookishskies

    February 17, 2019 at 2:09 PM

    The library sistem in The Netherlands sounds amazinggg and I’m so surprised! Even though most books are in Dutch, I still think it’s great that the country encourages more people to read, especially from a young age, since books are free for childrens & teens. I still think it’s pretty awesome that you have an English section in your library – in my country, I’d never find that, not even the classics or the romances. Thanks for sharing, Annemieke!

    1. Annemieke

      February 18, 2019 at 4:55 AM

      Ah it sucks so much you don’t have an english section. 🙁 And yes I think they do a lot.

  5. Para

    February 17, 2019 at 2:38 PM

    And followed!

    Agree especially with sending some ARCs to targeted groups and with the last point. I see “Just go to a library!” thrown around so much in discussions on book prices and it’s always so dismissive and kind of…short-sighted? I noticed that Americans especially tend to forget that things in other places may not work the same as they do where they live.

    1. Annemieke

      February 18, 2019 at 4:58 AM

      <3

      Yes it is very dismissive! People think it is all so easy, but even here the libraries aren't free and that is a big reason why some won't use it. Let alone in countries where libraries are barely available.

      1. Para

        February 18, 2019 at 5:50 AM

        Yup. Or they are underfunded, overcrowded (my local library for the last 20 years…any attempts to relocate have been caught in political limbo), the selection of certain books is poor for whatever reason (usually to do with translation) – or as you said, even barely available. Any number of reasons.

        And it’s a bit odd to imply that readers may not be aware of libraries too.

  6. Laurie

    February 18, 2019 at 3:11 AM

    As good as they succeed here in getting young children to pick up a book, as bad they are here in keeping them interested in reading. Most people quit loving reading in high school because the mandatory reading is too much and too uninteresting for young adults. Therefore they tend to quit reading because they just lost all love for it. I think that’s a shame honestly. And there is currently more interesting Dutch YA available, Blossom Books is releasing much more these days.

    1. Annemieke

      February 18, 2019 at 5:04 AM

      Mandatory reading isn’t amazing (though I honestly don’t recall it from my own high school years, maybe I’m too old?) But I do think they try with the book weeks, now young adult as well. I also think that as teens are a lot older they also have an own responsibility to keep up with their own reading (which I think mandotory reading goes against). That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any fun ways to encourage teens but I also don’t think it is as black as you are making it out to be.

  7. TheCaffeinatedReader

    February 18, 2019 at 5:00 AM

    I never thought about having to pay for a library subscription! I suppose it’s one of those things where I heard the word and I think ‘free’ (well free books anyhow). It’s a shame your library doesn’t offer more English books, but I find it pretty interesting there’s a Waterstones over there with all English books! And I totally agree with trying to send review copies to their target audiences, it would make the most sense and it doesn’t mean they only have to send it to the target audience but I mean the majority of the copies should, that way the author can get a better idea on how well their novel actually did in those communities instead of with just the most popular social media book people! Another great post from my favorite series!

    1. Annemieke

      February 18, 2019 at 5:08 AM

      I think there are certainly libraries in bigger cities that will probably have bigger collections of English books. But yes, isn’t it weird we have a Waterstones?

      And yes they could split it up a lot more how they send out the review copies. Like 60-70% to the target audience and the rest to the popular ones for instance.

      1. TheCaffeinatedReader

        February 18, 2019 at 5:46 AM

        Hopefully the publishers will come around to dividing ARCs more fairly and that includes their international readers too

  8. Jennifer Pletcher

    February 18, 2019 at 11:08 PM

    LOVE this. And she is right about that last point. I was there as well, until I moved to Switzerland as an American. We have libraries here but 1) they are not free, even though they are public. There is an annual cost and 2) there is very little access to expats who don’t read German. It was a real eye opener to me that you had to pay for a library and that I couldn’t easily access free books.

    I thank her for the UK Netgalley suggestion!!

    1. Annemieke

      February 22, 2019 at 10:01 PM

      Agreed it is hard to find books in libraries in Europe that are in English. We have like 4 shelves which seems like a lot but it is all one genre (and classics), and then we have one shelf of other languages, like German and French.

      You are welcome. 🙂

  9. Clo @ Book Dragons

    February 19, 2019 at 5:22 AM

    I had no idea you have to pay for a library subscription over there…to be honest I wouldn’t object if they implemented that here as long as it wasn’t a really high fee. Since I could see it benefiting the libraries over here, which have funding difficulty >.> In the UK (well England, East Midlands where I live) the library is free for you to sign up no matter how old you are. There are however charges which come into play after you’re 18, so it’s 20p to reserve a book which i’m guessing how they work around keeping it free for people to sign up?

    Thanks so much for sharing Annemieke <3

    1. Annemieke

      February 22, 2019 at 10:04 PM

      Yeah the fee isn’t too bad. I mean if I look at it, seeing how costly Dutch books are, I have to read 3 books from the library to get the cost of it already even so that is not so bad. Unfortunately libraries here still have funding problems as well. 🙁 In the town I grew up in you can only reserve books online and pick them up in the primary school in recent years. There is no library anymore. The books come for a nearby town (12km away).

  10. Lili Star Reads

    February 19, 2019 at 9:33 AM

    It was so interesting to learn about the Netherlands. I’m sorry for countries that don’t have a great library system or none, I would be lost without the library.

    1. Annemieke

      February 22, 2019 at 10:05 PM

      Libraries are amazing!

  11. lydiaschoch

    February 19, 2019 at 10:57 AM

    This was such an interesting interview. Thank you for sharing it.

  12. Greg

    February 19, 2019 at 6:01 PM

    Great interview! And thanks Annemieke for shedding light on the bookish scene in the Netherlands! That’s so interesting. 🙂

    1. Annemieke

      February 22, 2019 at 10:05 PM

      Welcome Greg. 🙂

  13. northernplunder

    February 21, 2019 at 5:27 AM

    as always i loved reading throught his post! its always great to hear moreabout different places around the world. ty for taking thetime for tihs, both of you!!

    1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

      February 24, 2019 at 9:37 AM

      Thank you so much for reading, Lauren!

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