#DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss: Being a Bookworm in Portugal

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Hi, bookworm friends! My name is Marta and I usually rant about my opinions on books and bookish subjects on my blog, the book mermaid. Today I changed it up a bit, but I’m here to share with you how my reading habits are seen in my country, Portugal, that is indeed quite small(ish) – especially compared to the US. 😞

Growing up, I always loved to read. I used to check out the same princess tales book from my primary school’s library every two weeks and I started asking my parents for books more often when I was in 7th grade. Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, but it is true that I haven’t had the same hobbies as children my age. And at the eyes of other people, there must have been something wrong with me reading, because that was all people could say about me.

Before getting to college (and meeting people who have broad reading habits), I had only met enough people my age who liked to read to fill one hand. And the only thing everyone else could say about us was that, that we like to read. “Liking to read” would automatically mean we’re smart, we do good at school, we’re quiet kids, perhaps we’re anti-social, who knows? All this because, in Portugal, reading is seen as a way of education only. From 5th to 9th grade there’s this project called “National Reading Plan” and we’re required to read one book from a pre-defined list every term and present it to the whole class. And in high school, we have to read around five books for Portuguese class too, since those are important books that we’ll be questioned about in our final exams.

As you can see, schools actually are interested in the reading habits of students. Or … maybe not? I say this because, when I read “Os Maias” by Eça de Queirós in 11th grade, I was the only one in the class (with around 25 students, perhaps) that read the full book. My teachers knew that, and yet they didn’t try and come up with an interesting way of getting their students to read. Most students didn’t read the full books for both the National Reading Plan and the exams, and most teachers couldn’t care less, to be honest. And that’s why when you saw someone reading in public, you immediatly thought they were a nerd. 📚

Nowadays, it’s slightly different. If you get in the subway in Portugal, you might see three or four people reading, mostly dazzling romances and highly popular books. Mentalities are slowly changing, however reading is still associated with education (likely because our current president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, is a huge advocate of reading). And, therefore, it’s still an uncommon hobby – unfortunately. 

Since the portuguese population, in its vast majority, doesn’t read, it’s kind of hard for the publishing houses to succeed and, therefore, it’s harder for the actual readers to access books. Portuguese books (both books by Portuguese authors and international translated books) cost pretty much almost the same as a hardcover book from BookDepository. For someone who enjoys reading and reads aroud five books per month, that’s a lot. And you’d think you could get more books in the sales, but then there’s this nice rule, called “18 months law”, that states that any book published in the last 18 months can only get 10% of discount. And what books do people usually look for in the sales? The most recent ones! Aditionally, e-books are not a thing around here. They exist, yes, but they’re not very popular and most publishing houses believe it to be too much of a risk to take. So readers either give up reading the amount of books they’d like to, or try and read in English (but most have to order online, since book stores have a really limited amount of books in English). 

To back this up, I created an online survey. 81,8% of the people who answered said they read in Portuguese, and 72,7% in English, meaning some percentage of it reads in both languages. And the majority of it (54,5%) gets books from physical retail stores, meaning they don’t have easy access to online stores – believe it or not, most middle-aged portuguese parents are a pain in the ass to convince to buy things online. Other smaller options were national re-selling websites and physical second-hand stores. 

If it is this hard to get an international book, let’s now imagine a Portuguese author wannabe. National publishing houses don’t like taking risks, and therefore only focus on the names they know will sell. If you’re just starting out, you’re probably only gonna be accepted in the smaller businesses, and the most popular publishing house in that department charges you to publish your work, and their service is not the best, either. But I won’t focus too much on that now. In case you’re interested, I have a whole series of interviews focused on that

Being a content creator in the middle of this world isn’t easy. I hadn’t known book blogs were a thing until I created one, and still I can’t name more than 10 Portuguese people I know that own one, and even 10 is hard. Booktubers I know are easier to name. Videos seem to be more enjoyable to watch than posts to read, yet the only people that seem to be part of this small national community are other content creators.

content creators

Readers answering the question “Do you usually follow the work of content creators?”

We’re luckier with the publishers, though. Their purpose is to sell, and we’re few and can help them out, so it’s not very likely you’ll get rejected for a book request (at least, not often). However, some publishers get really pushy and constantly send e-mails asking if you really can’t review this one more book. And even when you do, their ‘thank you’ is merely polite. Recognition for your work is hard to get – only a couple of my friends have been lucky for their bookstagram pictures to be re-posted on official publishing houses pages. 

So, if you can’t buy books in your own language because they’re expensive, you can’t buy online because you’re not comfortable reading in English or your parents won’t allow it, and you can’t only depend on publishing charity, what do you do? Logical answer: the library. Also wrong answer: the library.

libraries

Readers answering the question “Do you usually access the library?”

I’m very privileged as there is a good number of libraries in my city, however not every   primary/middle/high school and faculty has one. Besides that, the issue is, they pretty much depend on other people. I don’t believe libraries are given a huge budget of their own and so most of the books they have to offer were gifted to them. I had to give up reading Percy Jackson there because they didn’t have the full series, for example. And we can forget all about new releases! I’m actually jealous of US libraries, with all its new releases and recent books. So it’s not only hard to acquire books around here, but from outside as well, being an international blogger, with all the opportunities we miss. But apparently Cassandra Clare came to Portugal once (not my city, though, so still a bit far away if I had wanted to go) and I completely missed out on that because I hadn’t read her books back then and didn’t know her! 😭

And this is all I have to share with you today! I hope you enjoyed reading! How is reading seen where you live? 😊

Sea you later,

Marta


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Book Blogger @ The Book Mermaid

Marta is a twenty-year-old bisexual book blogger who loves mermaids, cats and Disney movies. You can usually find her either studying, reading, blogging or buried in a blanket, avoiding responsabilites. She takes pictures of everything that is pretty and finds it very odd to talk about herself in the third person. 

Notable Posts:

#DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss is a way to boost diverse bloggers who are brilliant, have a lot to say and deserve to be heard loud and clear. What this is, is basically a guest post feature where every Sunday, one blogger from a minority will discuss things they are passionate about on my blog. 

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9 thoughts on “#DiverseBookBloggersDiscuss: Being a Bookworm in Portugal

  1. This was so informative! I’m Portuguese (living in Canada) and just recently returned from a trip to Portugal. I was shocked at how expensive books were there, not to mention how limited the selection was! I went to a Bertrand (I wanted to buy a translated Percy Jackson or Harry Potter to improve my reading skills) but it was so small and looked more like an independent bookstore in Canada than a chain bookstore. It’s really a shame!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry you couldn’t find what you were looking for, it truly is a struggle! Here the only chain stores you can get books from are Bertrand and Fnac – the last one has a seriously small book collection for English books. Did you end up buying the books, by the way? Just a head’s up: Percy Jackson has a really messed up translation so I wouldn’t recommend for practising. But you should be fine with Harry Potter! 🙂
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting ❤

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      • Oh I didn’t know there was another chain store! I didn’t go into many major cities during my trip (my family is from a village with only small towns nearby), but maybe next time I’ll try finding Fnac!

        I did end up buying each book! I know the Harry Potter translation is good because I’ve read one book before, but it’s awful to hear that Percy Jackson doesn’t have a great one ): I’ll give it a shot anyways but that’s good to know in advance!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you enjoy the reading experience nevertheless ^^
        I don’t know where to find a Fnac anywhere else, I’m sorry, but in Porto there are two: one in Santa Catarina street and another inside Norteshopping. They sell all kinds of technology (phones, laptops, tablets, …), games, stationary items and music, too, so that’s why their book selection is limited.

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  2. I live in Canada and reading is popular here. There are many (smallish sometimes) libraries and book stores and of course Amazon (which I use mainly for e-books and the odd school book) and Book Dispensary. Reading is seen as, yes needed for education but also a acceptable entertainment and self-improvement. I hope things improve for you in Portugal.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting! 😀
      I wish people here would be like you. Every time there’s a family gathering or my mom talks about me to her clients (she’s a hairdresser), people associate my academic success to my reading habits. And then get disappointed if I haven’t read a certain classic or the latest Portuguese hit. I’m thankful more and more young people are creating reading habits, at least!

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  3. I loved reading this post, I learned a lot! I live in the US (New York to be exact) and feel like when I was younger, reading was seen as a nerdy thing. As I’ve gotten older, though, it’s been less so. Although I was an English major in college and tend to surround myself with people who love reading (or at least understand a love of it) anyway, so maybe I’m just lucky. I hope the situation for readers in Portugal improves because everyone deserves the chance to read the books they love! I just followed your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for stopping by 😀 I think that at some point reading was seen by most people as a nerdy thing only, but now mentalities have been changing. But like everything else, it takes time, and Portugal can be really slow adjusting to new things – for example, mentalities towards reading only actively started changing after the latest President got elected, as he loves to read and is always talking about it and before being a President, he was a Uni professor and was on TV every week giving recommendations of books. Growing up, I didn’t have many people who enjoyed reading as much as me, but now I’m studying Languages and share the building with Literature majors so I have plenty of friends, thankfully! (and we all complain about the same haha)

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