Filipino Friday: Something That I Want

"Filipino Friday"

I’ve been doing this book blog thing for three years now, and regular readers know that I read more international book titles than I do local ones. Mostly because there are more international titles than local ones.

And more importantly, there are more international book titles I’m interested in than local ones.

I don’t know if it’s because of my background, but I’ve been more exposed to local non-fiction books. To poetry collections too, but those are mostly published by university presses. It wasn’t until I started this blog that I even came across local fiction. Thanks in part to my fellow Filipino Book Bloggers who have introduced me to Trese, among many others. And, of course, to Summit Books.

But it seems I might have run out of books to read. I mean, technically, there are still a lot of books I’ve yet to read. But books that I’m interested in?

That brings me to the final Filipino Friday discussion for 2013: What do we, as readers, want to see in Philippine Literature?

Personally, I want to see more diversity. I have my preferred genre, but I won’t be selfish and say I want the local publishing industry to publish more dystopian fiction, or young adult books. Although, that would be nice. I just want more local books readers can pick through.

Right now, we have a lot of humor-based non-fiction that aren’t always funny; books published for the fans of local DJs and other celebrities; compilations of obviously fake true-life ghost stories; religious books, educational books, and books on how to succeed in life; the books for kids from Adarna; there’s the Precious Hearts romances, and their main competition whose brand I can’t remember; and then the very limited number of books that you cannot categorize from Visprint and Summit Books.

Suffice to say, I’ve read a lot of Visprint and Summit Books titles the past few years. Thing is, and I think a lot of Filipino readers would agree with me here, I want more.

For three years now, I’ve been going back to the argument that there are no Filipino readers. I hope that this is no longer a thought that local publishers subscribe to. Trese, although a comics series, has proven this not to be true for sure. Unfortunately, I cannot cite books to strengthen this argument. But that’s mostly because we don’t have a lot of local books to actually cite.

And most the books that are out there, are either something you wouldn’t want to brag about–or don’t get enough exposure.

Tomorrow’s the third Filipino ReaderCon. Where we talk books. And while I’m very proud of its existence, I must say that I’m also disappointed at the book discussion line-up: Seasons of Mist by Neil Gaiman? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen? Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card? Only one group will be discussing a Filipino book: Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog by Edgar Calabria Samar.

But can we really blame the book groups with their choices?

Again, it comes down to lack of options.

There will be no Filipino readers if there aren’t more Filipino books.

I do understand that that’s a double-edged sword as well. If more books are published, and yet readership still doesn’t pick up, are we effectively killing the local publishing industry? Maybe. Unless the books that do get published are actually good. And then readers will come.

Maybe work with the bookstores too. Have Young Adult shelves be stocked with local Young Adult books as well. But don’t just put the books there. Make it belong there. Make it look enticing to readers.

One of the things I’ve noticed when browsing through bookstores is that our local books look cheap. Put side by side with international titles, no one is going to notice the little books that look like they didn’t have enough to pay the graphic artist.

I know that I’m asking a lot off the publishers. But really, all that I’ve said can be summarized in one simple business term: Invest.

Invest in your books, and we will come.

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