Here we are on the third question for Filipino Friday, a weekly meme leading up to ReaderCon, the first ever Filipino Reader Conference on September 14.
Q: How hard or easy is it to be a book lover in the Philippines? What are some of your frustrations as a Filipino reader (e.g. availability of books)? What are positive aspects of being a reader based in the Philippines (e.g. book prices are lower here than they are abroad)?
It's a very good question! And now that I'm here in Canada and started out a new blog called "guiltless reading," I can definitely say that being a book lover in the Philippines has its highs and lows. What I can say is that if you are a reader in the Philippines, you will definitely find your means and ways so you can satisfy the craving to read!
Read all about some of my creative ways of sourcing books, and some good news after the jump!
Here are some of my creative ways of getting books back home:
♥ Borrow: If I can borrow first, that's what I do. I have borrowed books from anyone and everyone. Good sources: cousins, friends, my grandparent's house. (I always make it a point to return books. ALWAYS. Because a pet peeve is my own disappearing books. Seriously, I can get seriously upset over an unreturned book!)
♥ Buy: Buying is a commitment. And buying brand new is an even bigger commitment. So if I loved a book and wanted a spanking new copy, I bought from the usual and obvious bookstores - National Bookstore, Fully Booked, Power Books, Scribe and Brewer (Shangri-la - is this still open?), A Different Bookstore, Ink and Stone (Podium). Yes, I know my bookstores! Come sale time, I'm there.
If I don't want to buy brand new (or I can't find what I want brand new), I turned to second-hand bookstores like Booksale and tiangge; and the not-so-obvious (well at the time) on-line booksellers on Ebay and elsewhere. These are goldmines and you never know what you turn up with. For example, I bought Laurel's Kitchen for 30 pesos and hubby bought slim book about wine for 10 pesos -- both books are among our precious reads.
♥ BookMooch: Seriously got addicted to BookMooch, an online book trading site. I got to "meet" a lot of the Philippine blogging community through this venue, and I can honestly say that Bookmooch - locally and internationally - is such a nice community!
I kept listing down wished-for books (even specific editions), and copies kept popping up. It's a veritable and bottomless goldmine! More books kept getting posted, someone would even offer their copy. Or someone would have serious promos like mooch 2 (or more) for 1 point. Now, combine mooching with buying secondhand (so that I could keep trading in Bookmooch) = seriously addictive. I couldn't stand to not check Bookmooch daily, several times within the day because that book might get away!
♥ Review Books, ARCs: There are probably tons of publishers and authors who offer review copies, but I didn't have much luck in the Philippines. For example, I've been a member of LibraryThing for a while but there were very few books available to "international" destinations because the competition was either too tight, and few publishers willing to send all the way to the Philippines. With e-books though, I think this is changing things for the better for Philippine readers!
What, no libraries!? One major frustration I have back home is that public libraries in the Philippines are virtually non-existent. My daughter went to a private school and they had a library ... but get this: you can only read in the library! I asked about borrowing, at least for a few days, and if you ask the teacher and the librarian very very very nicely, they will let you. It is the exception to the rule, rather than the norm. I wondered why the daughter never brought anything home. I popped in the library during one of those evening PTAs and lo and behold, most of the books were old and outdated; and the library was a hot little room. Not exactly a pleasant read there, even if you could find the book you wanted! Now don't even get me started on public school libraries.
Now, libraries for adults? Hmmm. Bookstores are quasi-libraries. (If you're Filipino and reading this, you know what I mean.) I was already out of school and while the university library was an option at the time, again, the availability of new books was limited. But vintage books are a different story. Smirk.
Which brings us to where I am today. If you read why I started this blog, you'll know why I call it guiltless reading. And why my library card is something I truly treasure!
I'd like to end this post with something positive. I'd like to shamelessly plug the wonderful work of Friends of Baños Children, which brings much needed books to schools across my hometown of Los Baños. Libraries have been started up. Kids who have never seen dictionaries now have them to use! And books are available, not just for school, but to enjoy even outside of school! Nothing beats a happy child with a book in hand!
This is all purely voluntary work and people have tirelessly and silently been donating books and more importantly, their time. Check out their blog and consider contacting the group if you'd like to donate or volunteer!