Reading Around the Globe: Silvia in Germany
“All in all I think that my lifestyle makes it so I don’t have a lot of technical difficulties buying my books when I need to, but that’s the thing…it’s always buying them, and very rarely borrowing them. I talked about my library in a previous answer, but what would make my life a lot better are ebooks or audiobook library loans, which I can’t get here. Hopefully some day. Oh, and I’m not even going to talk about trying to get physical ARCs.”
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.
* Note: after months of crunching data, I decided to move Reading Around the Globe to a different day of the week as Saturdays are a low traffic day.
- What is your name? Silvia
- Blog URL? Silvia Reads Books
- Twitter handle? @verelaurent
- Where do you live? I’ve been living in Germany for two years but I am from Italy
- 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’m going to answer this with Italy in mind because that’s the culture I know best. I think we do have a culture of reading, but we’re also losing it a little. In my circle of friends and family, almost everyone is a reader, and I’ve always seen everyone in my family read, be it as a pastime or for research. That had a strong impact on me, but I honestly feel like the love for reading comes from within and if I hadn’t found books that really spoke to me and my tastes as a kid it would have been harder to “become” a reader.
- What kinds of books do you enjoy reading? I read across several genres, sometimes I prefer fantasy, sometimes contemporary, but one thing that’s always the same is my love for character-driven stories. I’ve also been reading almost exclusively LGBTQ+ books for the past three years or so, and I always strive to read more diversely each year.
- Have you always been a reader? Yes!! I remember reading picture books with few words on them and I’ve been reading ever since.
- 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! Since I started blogging and consequently reading more diversely, I actually almost never read in Italian. I sometimes read in German to improve the language, and rarely in Italian (but I do sometimes buy LGBTQ+ books that get translated because I want to support them). I feel like there’s a lot of different genres that are published both in Italian and in German, but it’s hard to find the types of books I love (diverse and queer). We’re nowhere near the English-speaking books’ standards when it comes to this aspect.
- 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 a lot of libraries both in my hometown and in the German city where I live. I never go to the Italian ones, but they’re full of more academic books and classics, if you want to find YA books you’d probably only find Harry Potter (if you’re lucky). I have better luck in Germany, and I also happen to live in the only city in the country with an International Library, meaning I actually do have access to books written in English (but the library is rather small and volunteer-run, the books they have are all donated by readers, and you can’t request new releases like I hear people do in other countries). Also, services like Libby or Overdrive aren’t available to me because the libraries around me don’t support them.
- How prevalent are English published books where you live in bookstores? (For example, books printed by HarperCollins.) It really depends on the size of the bookstore, but I can’t think of a bookstore I’ve been to in both Italy and Germany that doesn’t offer books written in English (and sometimes other languages too). The selection and availability varies though, also depending on where the bookstore is set. For example, the bookstore at the main train station has an entire wall of English books, with one section dedicated to Mysteries, one to Fantasies and the third one to YA/MG. However, because they want to appeal to the potentially casual reader/tourist who’s there to find a book before their train departs, most books are rather famous and/or old. I’ve only found one very recent release (King of Scars back when it came out, maybe only one or two weeks later) there. But, at another bookstore, in a not-so-tourist-y area, the selection of English books was much smaller, but they had very recent releases (at the time, Defy Me and We Hunt the Flame are the ones that come to mind), which was quite a surprise.
- 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? This is a touchy subject ahahah. Okay seriously, I use both and they work very differently for me. I have been able to get a lot of ARCs from NG, and I feel like it has to do with the fact that I mostly request diverse/queer books (that are usually from smaller publishers). Most hyped titles aren’t even available for me to request, though. Whereas on Edelweiss I am certainly able to request even bigger, more hyped titles, but regardless of whether the book is hyped or not, my success rate would probably be around one book every 15 or 20 requested.
- Do you experience hurdles or barriers to access for the kinds of books that you read? Please explain if so. Yes and no. I am lucky in the sense that I am perfectly okay with, and even prefer, getting my books in digital copy. This has many advantages to me, because I live in a small flat, I like to read wherever I can on my commute, and most of all the price is cheaper than for paperbacks or hardbacks. If I want physical books, it’s actually pretty easy for me to order them through Amazon. Book Depository too, although the books take longer to arrive. All in all I think that my lifestyle makes it so I don’t have a lot of technical difficulties buying my books when I need to, but that’s the thing…it’s always buying them, and very rarely borrowing them. I talked about my library in a previous answer, but what would make my life a lot better are ebooks or audiobook library loans, which I can’t get here. Hopefully some day. Oh, and I’m not even going to talk about trying to get physical ARCs. It’s something I honestly don’t know much about because I’ve never even tried, and I know some of my friends who live in Europe do get them sometimes, but honestly I think it’s more trouble than it’s worth (also, I get anxiety at the mere thought of having to contact a publisher!!)
- If you could make one change to the publishing landscape, what would you do? This is almost a given, but… normalize reaching out to international readers. I’m not sure which way that can be achieved, but it hurts every time we’re forgotten by authors or publishers. I’m not even talking about opening every giveaway to international people, which I know might not be legal in some cases. But simply the way they talk as if everyone has the same availability, sentences like “just go to the library!” are very disrespectful to those of us who have to go through more difficult steps to get what people in the US get. And I say this as an already privileged person, because as I said I do have some services available to me, thanks to living in central Europe, but it’s still nowhere near the privilege that people in the US have
- Help other international bloggers out… What resources do you use to obtain the books that you want to read? Netgalley (if you’re just starting out or have no luck getting approved by publishers, try the “Read now” section!), Edelweiss (again, try the “To Download” section if you’re not ready to try your luck with requesting books), any e-reader or reading app (do some maths and see how many e-books you can get for the price of one paperback or hardback), the Riveted site (which offers full books or extended excerpts for a limited amount of time, available to read for free), Audible if you’re into audiobooks (expensive, but if you can afford it try the yearly subscription…it will give you 12 credits which equal about 8$, plus you get massive discounts for books you buy with money instead of credit). Another source of entertainment (and why not, material you can review on your blog) are the countless free webcomics available on the internet, if that’s something you like.
- Do you have any other experiences as a reader around the world that you would like to share? Not much, but I’ve just come to the realization that no matter our differences, us international readers always feel a sense of community with each other because our struggles and complaints are often similar or the same. And I’ve made many online friends just by talking about the struggles of being an international blogger, so that’s something positive that’s come out of it!
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.
Let’s go on another adventure together!