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.
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.
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,
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.
#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.