Reading habits in Spain

Hello everyone,

Books can be your greatest companions whether you have already settled in Spain or are now planning your move. Are you an avid or occasional reader? We would like to know more about your reading habits.

What type of reading do you enjoy? Do you read novels, comics, magazines, newspapers, etc.?

Where do you purchase or borrow books in Spain (bookstores, online, library subscription, etc.)? Do you prefer digital reading?

Do you have an average budget devoted to reading in Spain? Do you buy books or pay a library membership fee?  Do you spend more or less than in your country of origin?

In what languages can you find the books that you usually read?

What books or magazines would generally be found on your bedside table?

Thanks for participating,


In spain public libraries are part of the town hall services, membership is free.  The ones I have used have been in areas which have significant non Spanish populations, both as residents and long term visitors.  All had an english books section, plus some books in other languages

When I started studying Spanish I joined the public library.  Initially I borrowed books from the children’s section before moving on the the adult section as I progressed. 

I found that by borrowing books by english speaking authors, translated into Spanish, the story lines were easier to follow.   I borrowed books which I had read in english and thus knew the story.   I found C P James one of the simplest as she tends to repeat herself often thus if I did not understand something on one page I knew it would appear in a slightly different form a few pages later,  I borrowed all the books by Agatha Christie, Jules Vern,  H G Wells and the like.   

Reading books in Spanish was a lot less boring than studying Spanish per se using Spanish tuition books.

Now I read mainly whilst I am working as a volunteer translator and helper at a national police station, to pass the tine.  There are so few people reporting crimes, it helps to relieve boredom.

I usually buy books in the boot fair market:  Three for a euro, and then donate them back when read.

I have a list on my phone of all the books I remember I have read,  so when buying books by authors I have read,  who have the same character in many of their stories, I can quickly check to ensure I have not read it before.  So annoying to get into chapter one and then realise you have read it before !

Since moving to Spain and, eventually, completely retiring, it's been an absolute pleasure to be able to start a fairly lengthy novel and finish it within a week - instead of starting a book on a vacation and finishing it on the next!

I'm an avid reader.  The bookshelves in my home office are piled high with "still to read", "return to owner" or "return to charity shop".  We are also lucky in the village in which I live (Benitachell, northern Costa Blanca) to have a wonderful book exchange in the nearby town of Javea called "Polly's" which is set out like a library with seating areas.  I can spend a very happy morning there just browsing.

My taste is very eclectic.  I will read anything that grabs my attention, regardless of genre.  I'm into Peter James (his "spooky" and crime novels - they're an easy & entertaining read), but I've also just purchased the hardback of "The Planets" by Prof. Brian Cox.  It's fascinating, but the book is so heavy & large, you have to read it at a desk!

Two of my favourite novels are "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak and "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" by John Boyne.  But also "The Kite Runner" and it's follow-up.  Wonderful stuff.

Have many books downloaded onto my tablet, but rarely turn to them.  There's something about a well-thumbed paper-back that appeals ....

I have a list of authors I like, but not the books by them that I've read!  I wish I'd started that a long time ago.  But, with the memory span of a goldfish (or maybe a little longer), if I haven't read the book for 5+ years, I rarely remember it, unless it's one of my "burned on the memory books" or a classic which I know I've read.

Nowadays, when everything is available online, I hardly ever buy a book as a paper artefact and I can't remember the last time I turned the pages of a newspaper.

I do still buy books where the illustrations or photos are a key part but for novels and the like it's nearly all Kindle. For the news I use a mobile phone application that collects together articles from three or four newspapers.

When I first moved here I decided to try to read in Spanish and I still do. Part of it is language practise and part is so that I have a bit more cultural knowledge of the place I live. You know the sort of thing - you see some journalist on the TV and you realise that he or she was the author of that book you just read or people talk about well known authors and you've read a couple of them rather than not having a clue.

Like other people I joined the local library and I joined one of the library's reader's circles too - the thing where you all read the same book and then talk about it. I was the silent one in the corner! I still have my library card but I hardly ever use it.

Bookshops in Spain used to be very scary places. There were very few of the browse the shelves type. Most of them you had to engage the bookshop owner in conversation to ask if they had a specific book. Just wandering in to a shop to see if they had anything you fancied was very difficult.  Asking about a book often involved them ordering it for you and then waiting two weeks for it to be delivered. Also books in Spain still strike me as being expensive. The last book I bought, yesterday, was Un mar violeta oscuro and the price in el Corte Inglés , which is the same everywhere because there is price maintenance system for books to protect smaller booksellers, (I think the discount can be no more than 5% on the publisher's price)  was 21€. For a 300 page novel that seemed pricey to me. Anyway I bought it as an eBook from the Spanish side of Amazon for 12.34€. Nowadays bookshops are much easier with browsing the norm. They still have very strange ways of organising things though so it can be hard to find things even in the bigger more obvious bookshops like Fnac or Casa del Libro.

One interesting thing is that when I was living here, but still maintained my UK Amazon account, it was cheaper to buy books, in Spanish, printed in Spain, from the UK than it was to buy them in Spain even after carriage costs. I think eBooks were cheaper too.

Book fairs are very common all over Spain. The one in Madrid is still a big event with lots of famous authors sitting around to sign their latest offering. Book launches are also quite common in even the smallest town. A local author writes a book and there is a bit of an event in a cultural centre to give it a bit of publicity.

I notice that a couple of the respondents above mentioned keeping lists to avoid duplication. I would agree with that. Whereas I don't find it difficult to remember "Anglo" names I seem to have a blind spot to remembering Spanish ones. As soon as I read a few pages of a book in a bookshop or in a craft fair or even as a Kindle sample I remember it but authors and titles seem remarkably forgettable. I think it's partly because with an eBook you don't see the front cover with author and title every time yo open it.

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