Up until about a month ago, I had one very big problem with Spain (and living abroad in general): English language books, or lack thereof to be more precise. The problem is manifold.
First, books in English are somewhat difficult to come by in Spain. They do exist in the back corners of some bookstores, and Málaga is a big enough city to have some of these gems. However, once the problem of mere existence is remedied, there is a new problem: selection. The English language section of a bookstore, if there even is one, is small, and is likely to not have much more than the Twilight series and some other international best-sellers. Even after one finds a desirable book, price becomes the next hurdle. Is that really worth 8€? You had to settle for something other than what you were looking for, so do you really want to fork out the money for it, or would it be better spent on bus tickets or beer? Let’s say you decide to buy it anyway. You read it. It takes maybe a few weeks, less time if you work 12 hours a week like I do. You set it aside. Now you have this physical object added to your possessions. If you’re like me you like to keep your books, especially good ones, because one day you want a huge Beauty and the Beast library.
So you keep the book. But a few months from now, when your time in Spain is done and you’re packing, that book and all the others you’ve collected weigh down your luggage, making it a hassle to drag around, and putting you that much closer to the airline’s weight limit. Big problem.
My first four months in Spain I borrowed books from my boss’ small English library, but it was nothing I was terribly excited to read. I gave audio books a try, but I was still hesitant about missing really reading. So I downloaded all of Harry Potter, which I’ve read several times. I’m glad I didn’t try anything new. It passed the time and the narration was fantastic, but for me it didn’t replace the experience of reading a book.
Luckily, I have a very simple solution to all of my book problems: KINDLE. This amazing device solves the problems of availability, selection, price (in most cases), and weight.
Last summer before I came to Spain I researched all the e-readers and decided that the Kindle seemed like the best choice for me (internationally supported 3G service!). My mom decided it would be a going away present (Thank you!), but unfortunately they were back ordered until after I would be in Spain. Instead of paying the extra taxes and shipping to send one to me in Spain we waited until I came home for the holidays, and it became a Christmas present. I don’t think a day has gone by since then that I haven’t read from it.
By far my favorite thing about having a Kindle is that nearly two million out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books are free. Yes, FREE! You know that section of Barnes and Noble with all the classics (which I drool over every time I’m there)? I can get all of those books for free. Millions of other books are dirt cheap.
As far as the slightly different reading experience goes, it really didn’t take me long to get used to pressing a button to turn the page. In fact, when I was reading out of a book today I caught myself wanting to press a button and use some of the Kindle’s other features while reading. One handy feature is the built in dictionary. If I come across a word I don’t know, I simply scroll to that word on the page and the definition appears. The screen is nothing like a back-lit computer screen that causes a glare or gives you a headache if you stare at it for too long. It really is just like reading paper. I’ve tested it at the beach, and can happily report that there were no problems in the sun.
For all the differences there are between reading a screen and holding a book, the pros far outweigh the cons. I now have access to all the English language books I want, they are cheap and sometimes free, and they take up virtually no space in my suitcase.
I still think that someday when I’m permanently settled somewhere I will start collecting books again in pursuit of my dream of a fantastic personal library. But with my current globetrotting tendencies, my Kindle is my best friend.
Books completed in January:
- All Over the Map by Laura Fraser
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen