What and how much do Bulgarians read? We ask this question in April, the month of books when two celebrations are held. One of them was on 2 April, International Childrens Book Day. The other is the World Book & Copyright Day, 23 April. In 2011 alone, the National Statistical Institute reports, more than 5000 books were released in Bulgaria. 3500 of them are by Bulgarian authors, and 1500 are translations. According to a survey of the pollster Alpha Research held in 2007, about 58 percent of Bulgarians read books. Of them about 30 percent are active. According to a survey of France Presse in 2008, the people reading actively in France are about 6 percent. Thirty percent do not read books at all, and 64 percent read less than 5 books per annum. So, it turns out that Bulgarians tend to read a bit more than the French though the latter have higher living standards. And there are more statistics, from the Bulgarian Book Association. In 2012 the book sales in Bulgaria grew by 10 percent, and about 12 million copes were sold for the whole year. These figures cover only books on paper. Books in e-versions are not included in them. Second hand books and books hired from libraries are not included either.
“I don’t think that quantity matters so much. Quality is more important”, contends Albena Ralenkova from the Bulgarian Book Association. “I mean that we have to tell our children how to read and to prove to them that reading is fun and an adventure. We often scold our children of not reading enough and we fail to admit that we have raised them to be like this. The responsibility for the relationship they have with the book is fully ours, and we, adults have to take care of it. The assumption that Bulgarian children do not read is a myth. We have met with many kids and we believe that they read books and will continue to read. What adults should do is encourage this interest by offering them compelling reading stuff.”
What books do Bulgarians choose? What kind of books have been gaining popularity? Is the e-book set to replace books on paper?
“Similar to other countries, books related to the occupation and training are very popular, Albena Ralenkova says. Older generations are fond of novels, of course. Psychology and self-help books have gained great popularity of late. My personal opinion is that the traditional book with the pages that we can turn creates a certain atmosphere, and the e-books create a different one. So, I do not think that the e-book will cannibalize conventional books. I thinks that there is space for both, and the trends prove that.”
The Parade of Books that the Bulgarian Book Association organizes for a second consecutive year in April, and all events on its playbill seek to promote reading of books and to remind us that we have to lead our children into the road of reading. The official opening of the campaign was on 2 April at the National Library in Sofia. Bookstores across the country have become the scene of various interesting initiatives. The Hour of Tales event is underway in one of the shopping malls in the capital city. The hour includes games and fun for kids, meetings with writers and competitions.
“On 20 March the national contest Magic Pearl started for the nomination of the Best Children’s Book 2012. This competition is unique in that children are the ones who nominate the book they like. The awards will be made public at a special event with the motto, Give Your Child a Book, Give Him a Celebration. It will be held in the open near Lake Ariana at Boris Garden in Sofia. It will be held for a third year in a row. Besides, the readings of famous writers in schools and nursery schools have already started, as well as The Reading Marathon in the libraries of the country. We have organized roundtables on the problems of reading accentuating children’s literature.”
Translated by Daniela Konstantinova