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The joy of books

Author: Gabriel Hershman Date: Fri, Dec 03 2010 8 Comments, 3848 Views
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Finding English-language books in Sofia can be frustrating. Unlike food and clothes, book prices do not reflect reduced Bulgarian purchasing power. Vendors have also not learned the difference between attentive service and "customer stalking". Traders in the UK, by contrast, know that the most lucrative enterprise is the most comfortable one. Let people browse and read books on soft sofas – preferably with a coffee close to hand – and they'll come back.

Lovers of the classics, trashy novels and glossy travel books will have no problems in Sofia. Several bookshops in the city centre cater to your needs, although the same titles re-appear everywhere.

If you're looking for a more comprehensive range of biographies, you will be disappointed. For example, I looked in vain for Christopher Hitchens' popular autobiography Hitch 22. Sofia's biography section is weak. You're better off ordering these books on Amazon but be advised that giving the name of a company with a conspicuous building is better than a private address.

The Knigomania chain remains your best bet for English-language books. The same chain has a franchise with the Orange centres which, in addition to selling books, also sell videos, toys and games. The excellent Penguin Yalta bookshop in the university metro station is also part of the same stable.

Knigomania's best outlet is on Vassil Levski Boulevard. It has a fine range of classics (at the far end of the store) and popular fiction (to the right of the entrance). It houses Shakespeare and Dickens – as well as 20th century icons like Camus, Hemingway, Orwell and Roth. It also has the most updated collection.

For example, it was the first to stock Tony Blair's autobiography. It also has a good choice of reference works, children's books and books about the arts, although if you're looking for in-depth books about cinema – other than the ubiquitous titles on Ray Winstone, Daniel Craig and Jordan – you'll be disappointed. There's a good travel section, albeit at extortionate prices. Booktrading has a good choice of reference books and dictionaries.

Although all these shops have English-language sections, you'll find some good English books interspersed among the Bulgarian ones, so you need to hunt around.

  • Profile preview
    just_tired Rating: 8
    neutral
    #8 14, 46, Sun, Mar 11 2012

    Bookstores are about to get slaughtered by the internet, just ask any print media

  • Profile preview
    aharon Rating: 8
    neutral
    #7 01, 57, Sat, Mar 10 2012

    It's not just about the joy of books for foreign guests here.

    Reading culture among young Bulgarians is a huge disaster zone. This needs hard research. The Bulgarian Reading Association deserves much more support and outreach at bulra.org

    Few teens are reading books for pleasure in Bulgarian, let alone English. Ask teachers in most ordinary high schools. Ask the kids.

    Outside the major largest towns, hard to find English books for sale. But few students would buy them. Even students majoring in English at some universities do not [...]

    Read the full comment want to buy a book for SELF-SELECTED FREE VOLUNTARY READING.

    Few learning English are reading this paper or another in English online, a survey will show that.
    Even at the language high schools.

    Encouraging FREE VOLUNTARY READING in Bulgarian and a foreign language of choice should be a truly major priority in schools and beyond. Plenty of free-access materials online.

    How can voluntary reading for pleasure be sparked here? The new cheti.me site is one small step forward. The work of the Българска асоциация по четене (БАЧ)is crucial. Bulgarians who learn to love to read in L1 will also read in an L2 like English, and buy books.

  • Profile preview
    joycepyncho Rating: 9
    neutral
    #6 14, 14, Fri, Mar 09 2012

    I am happy to say someone has finally opened a specialized second-hand English bookshop in Sofia. The prices are indeed reasonable (from 1 to 6 euros a book, most of them in the 2-3 range) and the selection is great. At last some modern fiction and quality nonfiction. The place is called Elephant Bookstore and you can check the location (and browse books) on the website - elephantbookstore.com

  • Anonymous
    Devin Rating:
    neutral
    #5 12, 06, Sun, Feb 06 2011

    I just moved to Sofia from Belgade. The first thing I noticed was how much better the selection of English books is here!!! Who cares about the price, when you cannot even GET books in English in Belgrade. And, Serbia not being an EU country makes Amazon shipping impossible! Very happy to be here and willing to endure higher prices in exhange for the opportunity to find these books!

  • Anonymous
    Tina Brown Rating:
    neutral
    #4 14, 17, Tue, Dec 28 2010

    I am an author in the Uk and am releasing a book in Bulgaria in March - I will be very interested to see how this is received and also read. please contact me for details and information of events relating to the book. hastingsspooks@hotmail.co.uk

  • Anonymous neutral
    #3 11, 48, Tue, Dec 07 2010

    Despite the prices or lack of available books, I am glad you are recommending reading. Television has much to offer, but books will stand the test of time. I believe the market will gradually improve.

  • Anonymous
    The Snowman Rating:
    neutral
    #2 21, 16, Mon, Dec 06 2010

    Or make life easier and cheaper by joining a library.I recommend the British Council Library at Sofia University.

  • Anonymous
    Anon Rating:
    neutral
    #1 18, 31, Mon, Dec 06 2010

    The selection of English books available in Bulgaria is very poor indeed and prices are often higher than in the UK.

    Buying secondhand is even worse. The bookmarket has massively inflated prices. I really wonder who ever buys there. Desperate tourists, I guess.

    I always make sure to stock up when I go back to the UK where one or two pounds is the normal price for a good condition secondhand book.

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