Filipino Friday is a weekly meme that aims to promote the upcoming Filipino Reader Conference on September 14 and will be held during the Manila International Book Fair, SMX Mall of Asia, Meeting Room 2. Today’s topic is how hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines.
Oh yay, a post where I get to rant about my book-related frustrations. *rolls up sleeves* Sorry if this post will seem too whiny, I don’t usually focus on the negative aspects of being a Filipino reader because I want my blog to be a happy place. But here we go… If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you know that I’ve mentioned that we don’t have good public libraries over here. I’ve heard that we actually do have libraries but I’ve never been inside one. The only libraries that I’ve experienced were my school libraries. So that’s one big frustration but I’ve gotten used to that because in a country where most people struggle to put food on the table, books can be considered luxury items. Like I always say, I’m just thankful that I have a job that allows me to purchase the books that I want to read.
Another frustration is the availability of books. We have several major bookstores in the country – National Bookstore, Powerbooks and Fully Booked but their stocks aren’t that great. Fully Booked is my favorite local bookstore because they have the best selection but I’ve still encountered problems with reservations and orders. There have been times when I’ve reserved a book and I see it on their shelves before I get a notification from customer service about my reservation. When there’s something that I really want, I bug the hell out of their sales people, call every branch to inquire and sometimes it works.
The situation has gotten better though now that online bookstores like the Book Depository and Better World Books have free worldwide shipping. I can just order the books that aren’t available here and wait a couple of weeks for them to arrive. I also have a Kindle so I can order ebook editions of the books that I want if I can’t wait for an actual copy to be delivered or if it’s cheaper than the paperback/hardcover. I also get to read review copies on my Kindle when authors send ebooks or through NetGalley or GalleyGrab. I wouldn’t be able to read review books if not for my Kindle because US and UK publishers aren’t willing to send actual copies all the way over to the Philippines.
Other advantages include cheaper book prices if they’re available here. The books are priced lower than the price printed on the books. We also don’t have to wait for books to be translated here because most people read English books. English is the medium of instruction in schools so I guess that’s one of the main reasons why we don’t need translations. I consider that a good thing because I can read US, UK, Canadian and Australian books in their original form.
Oh wait, bringing up Aussie books reminded me of another frustration – I don’t read that many books by Filipino authors. Why? Because the kind of books that I read don’t get written by Filipino writers. I read a lot of young adult (YA) books and I’m jealous at how vibrant the Aussie YA community is. There are so many awesome Aussie YA books out right now (my favorite Aussie author is Melina Marchetta) and I keep wondering why we don’t have something similar here in the Philippines. So many authors write in English too and I think we’re all aware of how big YA is right now. I really don’t know why there aren’t more excellent Filipino YA books. If I was any good at writing, I’d come up with one. LOL.
Another thing that I love about the local scene is how active Filipino readers are both online and offline. I feel lucky that I’ve met blog and reader friends through Filipino Book Bloggers, the Filipino Goodreads group and even Flips Flipping Pages (when I drop by during some of their discussions). And I’m also getting to know more Filipino readers through the Filipino Friday memes. So while it isn’t easy to be a book lover in the Philippines, I still think it’s a lot of fun. 🙂 What about the rest of you, what do you think are the perks or difficulties of being a reader in the Philippines?