We open its cover. Maybe we’ll find training, or entertainment, or cultivation… A lot of variety, though many repetitions also of fashion themes. What would happen if we copied literally the contents of those pages? Pages that by the way, still come in their great majority from trees… Do we mind if we may find books reflecting any ideology? If we want to read a book only once, do we like the idea of leaving it on our shelves forever? Many considerations to be taken into account… Don’t turn the page!

In the Mediterranean:

  • The world of books is very diverse among the various Mediterranean coasts. If we go back to 1999, the last year of which we have data of the whole Mediterranean scope collected by UNESCO, we see that it goes from the 133 titles published in Algeria or the 386 in Morocco, up to the more than 30,000 published in Italy of the almost 60,000 published in Spain, whereas in Tunisia were published one thousand, two thousand in Croatia and three thousand in Slovenia.
  • In general, in the Arab World, publishing industry has a modest production, as stated the president of the Association of Arab Publishers in 2003. That is because reading has not been popular at the Arab world during the last generations; even there has been a low or very low literacy level (though the picture is changing in the last years. According to UNESCO data, if we adhere to the range of age between 15 and 24 years, we see there is only a 10% of illiterate or more in Algeria, Egypt and Morocco). In fact, traditionally there has been an important oral transmission of poems, of knowledge, of Quran…
  • On the other hand, on the other European side, we find a truly publishing madness: considering that books have small revenue, the more they publish the more they increase the possibility that any of them may be successful and therefore compensates the edition of all of them. This phenomenon has become a very quick vicious circle, for example in Spain where publishers explain that they have found themselves in a non-stop escalation of titles since at least one century.
  • It is thus very difficult to bring together information equally valuable for such different realities. The information you will find on the following tabs is of appliance especially in countries with the publishing and reading models more common at the northern shores of the Mediterranean.

If we are not short on money it is not unusual to buy books just like that. A book is never amiss; reading makes we grow up, it is necessary to support culture… But books are nonetheless consumer goods, and it is as convenient to limit their consummation as for any other product. Let us buy books when we really want them.

How can we go about it:

  • If I buy this book, when will I read it? How many books do I have that I have not yet read and I don’t know if I ever will be able to, although I would like to do so? Maybe I could start to read one of those, before I buy a new one?
  • Libraries are an excellent tool to have access to books without having to buy them.
  • We can also read books that other people lend us.
  • Electronic books and audio books let us save paper (please look on “the paper” tab).
  • Books (and records) are often very used as a wild gift when “we do not know what to give as a gift”. Let us assure ourselves that the person receiving it really wants that book, or that he/she will be able to read it. We can also give as a gift the possibility of reading that book, lending him or her books of ours, for example.
  • It’s often thought that authors need to sell books to keep on creating, but that's not so.
  • If we want to develop ourselves, reading is a way, but not the only one. There are people “officially uneducated” that have such a deep wisdom as a learned person. We can learn a lot from other people of our own experimentation, of talks, of some programs on the TV or the radio…
  • Let us buy a book when it really interests us or we like it so much as to want having it handy at any time. This way we will also keep place for shelves at home.

We want to read on a subject matter, a certain kind of novel… but we don’t know which book we’d like best. Let us seek advice.

How can we go about it:

  • The booksellers are some of the business branches who usually have more knowledge about what they are selling. They can guide us on the style of different authors, the suitability for the age if we want books for children, the contents of technical books, the deepness and line of essays… Let us explain them properly what we are looking for…
  • Knowing the marketing techniques with which books are offered helps us not to choose by impulse.
  • Let us talk about books with people of similar tastes and interests.
  • Let us consult press reviews and in the internet, but seeking different sources so as to contrast them.

Many big publishing groups are giant conglomerates with an enormous power on the public opinion because they own a great number of media (newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, cinema and entertainment…). The independent publishers are much superior in number; in Spain, for example a 75% of the publishers are independent and they publish a 43% of the titles. If we buy books from independent publishers we contribute to a wider plurality of ideas circulating (or, as it is also called, to bibliodiversity).

How can we go about it:

  • Most independent publishers are a minority and about specific themes, but some of them have a wide diffusion and international prestige, such as the Spanish one Anagrama. Let us look for them in our environment.
  • The copyright is the agreement by which an author or publisher reserves himself/herself the right to reproduce a work. The copyleft vision helps the books to move more freely among the public and is a great contribution to plurality.

The type of binding will influence the duration and good preservation of the book. Those with American binding (the loose sheets are glued directly to the spine) get loose very easily. Let us buy strong books.

How can we go about it:

  • The books which are more durable are the rebound ones, having several signatures sewn, glued or sewn to the spine. If we look the spine from above or below the book we will see the different “booklets”.
  • Let us take this into consideration especially for books that we will use a lot, like recipes or dictionary ones, those for library use…

According to the FAO, 40% of wood that is felled for industrial uses is destined to make paper. The paper industry uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry, is the fifth largest consumer of energy and one of those which release more toxic pollution to air and water. Let us look for books printed on recycled paper, which besides saving trees is manufactured with a lot less of water and power than virgin paper and releases far less pollutants.

How can we go about it:

  • Nowadays there is paper of the same quality that the virgin one for most uses, even for photocopiers. Only some printings that must have very specific qualities, as for examples full colour very brilliant photos, cannot be made out of recycled paper. Recycled paper has the same durability as virgin one.
  • Let us look for in our environment those publishers that are printing on recycled paper.
  • Greenpeace is working with many book publishers so that they commit to the campaign Ancient Forest Friendly’ Book papers, but progress is slow. Some authors that have committed to choose recycled paper or FSC for their books are Andrea De Carlo, José Saramago, Isabel Allende, JK Rowling, Ian Rankin, Günter Grass or Marlene Streeruwitz.
  • One option to save paper might by electronic books, but so far to read on the screen for many people is much more uncomfortable than reading on paper, and so, maybe after we have read some pages we will be eager to print the book also, and then it will be a more uncomfortable book that one printed as usual. The screen book makers may make it easier. The Gutenberg Project offers us for free almost 20,000 titles, for which the copyright reservation has expired.
  • The audio books are spoken books to be listened to. They are easy to find in the internet (for example here).

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international organization that grants a stamp of guarantee to products derived from forests or plantations managed in environmental standards and without causing social damage. When printing on virgin paper, that it be FSC.

How can we go about it:

The points of sale of books are not competing as much in price as in variety and services (in some countries, such as Spain, France or Greece, the retail price is fixed by the editor). Hypermarkets are selling mostly impulse and text books, they do not buy to small publishers and there is no specialized vendor than can advise us. Most bookshops besides vending books are cultural facilitators. Let us buy in bookshops.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us give priority to independent bookshops, the neighbourhood ones or the big ones that are not owned by big groups (even that there are less and less of these ones. For example in Italy 600 out of 2,000 bookshops are owned by some group).
  • Big bookshops have a good list of titles including books of small publishers.
  • Small bookshops take the books throughout the country and can bring us any title we may want.

The better we keep the books, the more people will be able to read them after us. It is not necessary that a book is in a faultless condition to be able to read it, but it helps if we keep them in a good state.

How can we go about it:

  • Let us cover the books while we are using them.
  • For those who have a paper jacket to protect the book, it is better to have it off while we read, so that it does not bend nor break.
  • Don’t use too thick bookmarks, as they may cause the book to get unbound. We can easily do one of card or paper.
  • Don’t open completely the book, so that it does not get unbound. The study books or consultation titles that have to be opened to 180º are edited in thick books in which the pages do not touch the spine on opening it. If we have it open on a surface, do not load thereon.
  • Do not write therein if it cannot be well rubbed out.
  • When we carry a book in a backpack or any other pack, we can put it in a plastic or fabric one, to diminish the impact of hits, to prevent the scratches and spots and avoid that the edges bend.
  • Let us arrange them on the shelves in a quite vertical position; if they are crooked they get distorted. Do not pile them up horizontally because the weight of those upon would distort those below.
  • Don’t let them in humid places; they could be attacked by fungus. Do not lay them either on places where they can be reached by sunshine directly.
  • Dust spots them. We should regularly dust the books or keep them inside a glass cabinet.
  • Bacteria are “eating up” paper of the oldest books. Let us apart them from the new ones, so that they don’t spread.

Once we have read them, there are several ways to make books reach other readers if we do not want to keep them.

How can we go about it:

  • To give them to some friend or take them to an exchange fair or to a second-hand shop.
  • To give them to schools, libraries or organizations that make them arrive to countries or communities with few resources.
  • To liberate them through the system of book crossing.
  • The last option would be to let them piled up beside the paper container; somebody always picks them up.
  • Let us demand and promote the reuse of text books at our children’ schools.