Before I begin this post, I want to make it clear that I’m not attacking anybody in particular. However, if you feel that I am attacking you with this post, maybe you need to take a step back and wonder why.
It started when I was just browsing through book Twitter (when really I should have been going through my TBR, so let’s be real Kate, this is partially your fault) and came across an author (I refuse to say who, but I bet if you looked hard enough you’d find them) bemoaning the lack of people who liked to read in this day and age (which in and of itself is a huge crock I think – reading is just as popular an activity as ever, if not more so). This author then proceeded to say that not having money to buy books shouldn’t be an issue because you could just go to the library.
*insert long-suffering sigh here*
Look, guys. Especially my American brethren. I know it’s hard for some of you to grasp this, but the developed world is not the only existing civilization. The ins and outs, vagaries, and realities of society in developing nations (a term which I have a huge problem with – considering ‘we strip-mined these countries for all the resources they could choke out and then threw donations at them to make ourselves feel better’ doesn’t sound quite as benevolent) are, shockingly enough, not the same as yours.
Being a bookworm means you are privileged. There are no two ways about it. Being a bookworm implies tons of things about yourself which has given you a leg-up in society: you have the disposable income to afford books, you can read and speak English, you’re educated above the grade school level, you probably have access to the Internet.
Take me, for example. I live in a country where a good percentage of the population lives under the poverty line. And yet I am typing this on a laptop, while sitting at my desk in my air-conditioned bedroom, surrounded by shelves filled with dozens of print books. I may not be a member of the wealthy upper class elite, but there is no denying that I am privileged.
Let’s address the remark of that author that I previously quoted. Just go to a library. That’s something that’s often said in response to people who either: a) pirate books; or b) can’t get into reading because they don’t have the money (and therefore maybe resort to pirating books). Now, I’m not going to defend book piracy. I know it’s wrong, and I know an author worked long and hard on that book and deserves to be paid for their creativity and effort. All I’m saying is, telling someone to “just go to a library” is not helpful advice. Again, consider privilege. When you can easily tell someone to go to a library, you probably live somewhere with a great public library system like Europe or the United States. Newsflash: public libraries with online components and a wide, varied collection are very often not a thing outside of the Western/developed world.
Here, in the Philippines, well-stocked libraries often only exist inside schools and universities. Public libraries are usually only for educational purposes, and libraries that stock contemporary titles and recently published fiction are few and far between – and those that exist charge upwards of 2,000php a month in membership fees. $40 may not be a big deal to some Americans, but here, that’s a whopping amount of cash that could be spent elsewhere for the average person.
Bookstores aren’t any help either. Take for example, my home country. There are two kinds of bookstores in the Philippines: the cheap secondhand stores and sidewalk vendors that sell outdated titles, or stores like National Bookstore, Fully Booked, and PowerBooks whose prices are like woah. If you want a specific recent title, you won’t be finding those at the cheap stores anytime soon. So wanting to keep up to date on what publishers and authors are putting out means handing over the big bucks, which, obviously, is not a viable option for some people. It’s even worse if you want a title that those three bookstores I mentioned don’t stock. You’ll either have to get it through special order, or on Amazon or The Book Depository, which aren’t exactly cheap either, let me tell you.
Don’t even get me started on NetGalley and Goodreads messing things up for international book bloggers. You can Google the issue if you need to know more. Suffice it to say, getting ARCs – especially physical copies – is ridiculously difficult as an international book blogger, even without NetGalley and Goodreads totally dropping the ball like that.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, your reality as a bookworm is not the reality of other bookworms and aspiring bookworms around the world. Being a bookworm is hard when you don’t have access to books, although God knows international bookworms and book bloggers try their best. But sometimes, the system is just gamed against you. Life is hard enough without people looking down their noses at you, calling you lazy or boring or unintelligent because you don’t read or can’t read books. Maybe everyone in the world would love reading if everyone in the world had access to books.
Keep that in mind the next time you condescendingly tell someone to go check out their local library.