Filipino Friday: A Reader in the Philippines

"Filipino Friday"The First Filipino Reader Conference is fast approaching! For those who don’t know when it’s going to be, it’ll be held on September 14 at SMX Mall of Asia, Meeting Room 2.

For today’s Filipino Friday, we are asked “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 wasn’t until I was working when I found out how hard it is to be a book lover in the Philippines–especially when the books you like to read are not bestsellers.

Growing up, I had a limited budget for book-buying; so every trip to the bookstore was a special one that ends with me having found one book. When college came, I was able to make my own financial choices and I was a bit more liberated in buying books. But since books became more expensive, and my money still came from my parents, I had to hold back. And so trips to the bookstore were treated as a way of casing the books, picking the ones I really like–and finding ways to hide the other books from view so I could come back for them when I had the money. There was, of course, two exceptions…

In high school, I started reading a series by Christopher Golden called Prowlers. I’ve mentioned the story here before. That’s the first exception. The second one was also by Christopher Golden–a mini-series called The Lost Slayer. Of the four books, I had the first, the second–and the fourth. It wasn’t until I was already working that I found the third book at a bargain bookstore.

And then all bets were off as I has already started earning my own money. I would spend thousands of pesos a month for books. By my third year working, I was running out of books to buy. Not because I had bought all of them. I’m not made of money. But because the books (and comic books) I want to read are not available here in the Philippines. The first time I asked a customer service personnel to ask about a book and be met with a blank stare, I was flabbergasted. What kind of a bookstore doesn’t have a widely-released book?

Goes to show you mustn’t take what you read off the internet at face-value. Wide release means it’s getting a release in the country it’s being published in. And unless it’s Harry Potter, or Twilight, or something that’s about to get made into a movie, it’s going to be tough to buy. Sure, in college, I was introduced to A Different Bookstore, Power Books and Fully Booked. But even with their more genre-friendly shelves, a lot of the books I like still weren’t getting releases here in the Philippines. Or, if I’m extremely lucky, I’d find one of the two copies the specialty bookstores ordered.

And don’t get me started on the many times I’d have something reserved/ordered–only to find a copy of the book in the bookstore’s shelves with none of the salespeople being any wiser about its existence.

But even with these frustrations, at the end of the day, I still love reading. And I’m not going to stop reading just because of complications. It’s either I find a different way of getting a book (like asking a friend who is visiting abroad to buy a book for me, or ordering it online), or I give books I didn’t like the first time a second chance to see if my opinions would change.

So that’s my story. Now tell me what you think: is it easy to be a reader in the Philippines? Or do you, like me, find it a bit frustrating at times?

12 thoughts on “Filipino Friday: A Reader in the Philippines

  1. And don’t get me started on the many times I’d have something reserved/ordered–only to find a copy of the book in the bookstore’s shelves with none of the salespeople being any wiser about its existence. -> THIS!!!

    I have a lot of frustrations when it comes to local bookstores. I think I don’t get as frustrated as before because I can just order from the Book Depository nowadays or get the Kindle edition when I really can’t wait for the physical copy. Things got better when Fully Booked opened its branches but there are still disadvantages. Sigh, I guess we just have to accept the fact that the local situation will never be as good as what they have in first world countries. I’m keeping my fingers crossed though.

    • The thing with ordering online though is the wait, and the shipping, and the never-knowing if it will arrive–or if it’s going to get victimized by Customs.

      Oddly enough, I’ve never had this problem with National Bookstore–probably because I never reserve any books with NBS. But Fully Booked has managed to forget my reservations so many times I already lost count. =( And that’s not counting the two times their system deleted my reservation list. *Sigh*

      As for not being as good enough as what they have in first world countries–why not? Why do we have to accept this? Can’t bookstores do something to change things? Or are they not willing to do so?

      • But Book Depository has free shipping! And they send refunds when your books don’t arrive.🙂 The tax thing is a problem though.

        *nods head* I’ve had problems with Fully Booked too, mentioned that in my post as well. They’re still my favorite bookstore selection-wise but I’ve noticed that I’m buying more books online than from brick and mortar stores.

        I’m not even sure if bookstores listen to the complaints of customers.

      • “I’m not even sure if bookstores listen to the complaints of customers.”

        They really should. The bad thing is, since there are only a handful of “big” bookstores, and none of them are really competing with each other, they feel as that they don’t really need to take care of their customers. And they’re right to think that however many our bad experiences are, we will return. Because we love books and because we have no other choice.

        After all, not everyone can order online like us.😦

  2. I have the same complaints with you on the sales people of our local bookstores. Good thing, I have developed the art of book hunting due to Booksale.

  3. “But even with these frustrations, at the end of the day, I still love reading. And I’m not going to stop reading just because of complications.” –good attitude!!🙂

    • I don’t know about having a special connection, but I sometimes tell them to be careful where they walk–especially when they’re about to trip/fall/bump into something. Sometimes. =)

      But, I think, readers in general have a kinship with each other. =)

  4. they just work there. i think that bookstore staff should at the minimum be a reader so that they at least have the enthusiasm to help customers out. i would rather prowl the shelf then ask – seriously, it’s much faster.

    i love booksale. you never know what you’ll stumble upon!

    i’ve since moved continents and now have the public library. and the thrift stores. i feel so lucky🙂

    • I’ve met a few who really are readers. But the problem isn’t just with the staff, sometimes it’s the system they employ too! like, for example, when a book is listed as already available in a certain branch, when it’s only on its way.

      and you really are lucky to have public libraries and thrift stores at your disposal. =) I’ve never been a fan of Booksale, I find it hard to look for books I want to read. But that’s just me. =)

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