Of Bulgarians and books

Photo: archive

„The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read”, Mark Twain once said. Do Bulgarians read books? What are their preferences? Will e-books replace books on paper? Why do Bulgarians tend to visit public libraries less often? We looked for the answers in the largest Bulgarian Facebook group of e-book users, and we also asked librarians and book-sellers.

In figures from the National Statistical Institute, in 2011 fifty-one percent of Bulgarians did not read even a single book and only 19% of the population read more than 10 books. These figures are alarming. Therefore we gladly accept that fact that groups focused on books and reading have been gaining popularity in the Bulgarian online space. In our poll the favorite Bulgarian classics of readers include Dimitar Dimov, Dimitar Talev, Ivan Vazov and Nikolay Haitov. The most preferred foreign classics include William Shakespeare, Mikhail Bulgakov, John Steinbeck and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

As to contemporary Bulgarian writers, more than half of respondents say they love to read books by them as well. 27% however claim present-day Bulgarian writers fail to offer worthy reads, and others believe reading their books is a fad. The polled mentioned the names of Georgi Gospodinov, Donka Petrunova and Ivan Trenev.

Pavlina Genova who works in a large Bulgarian bookstore comments:

„There is no big demand for contemporary Bulgarian writers for adults. One notable exception is Stefan Tsanev from the older generation whose books are quite successful on the market. As to children though, they most often prefer Bulgarian authors. Adolescents read mostly fantasy and historical novels. Among children’s writers, one of the most popular is Yulka.”

As to the place of e-books, most of the polled believe that they will never fully replace books on paper despite the great convenience that the former offer. Indeed, it is such a great experience to hold a paper book – but still only 4% of respondents say they read books on paper exclusively.

66% of the polled do not use or use seldom the services of public libraries and cultural centers. They point to the problems there: lack of reading amenities, poor supply of new books or their arrival with big delays.

Librarian of more than 30 years Lubov Ivanova confirms these trends:

„Fewer people are visiting the library because they cannot find here the literature they are interested in. In the past book supply was centralized, plus we had a budget that we could use to buy books depending on demand and the profile of readers. Now the monthly budget for books is 50 euro, and prices vary from 8 to 10 euro, so you can imagine how many books we can buy per annum.”

However there is a piece of good news for die-hard users of public libraries, especially in the provinces. The Ministry of Culture has approved a new standard for library and information services. With its introduction Bulgarian libraries will comply with all European and international requirements for dissemination of information and knowledge.

English version: Daniela Konstantinova

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