This past week, we were out shopping for small Christmas presents, and had decided upon children’s books for one toddler. The monetary limit for this small exchange was to be roughly $5 in U.S. currency. Not a problem, or so we thought until discovering that even children’s books are astronomically priced in Chile. Books that would have cost $4-5 were priced at the equivalent of $25 or more.
Hardcover books barely hold a presence in most bookstores, due to their cost. Most shelves bulge with paperbacks, which hardly appeal to an avid book collector.
Apparently, books are considered to be a luxury item, and the national government has maintained an exorbitant tax on their purchase. Bookstores have also followed suit by charging ridiculous prices. My comment in the bookstore was that it was one way to keep the masses ignorant and controllable. How can a country advance when independent learning is kept out of reach for the multitude?!
There is virtually no developed culture for reading among the masses. Public libraries are non-existent, and even university students achieve their degrees without ever having purchased a book. The latter statement boggles my mind most of all. Students learn through lecture or what they may now read on line, without ever having to crack a book open. Some may argue that it is a testament to concerted listening, but I would counter with how does one challenge what is being presented if the foundation for information is not in place to question.
I cannot imagine my life without books. Even as a child, I dreamed of having my own personal library. Over the years and countless moves, my collections have expanded and contracted, and expanded again. As lifelong friends, they have become dear to my heart, holding the knowledge that I have learned, as well as remnants of my past. So, it was with great sorrow to find that books have disappeared from my bookshelves during large gatherings. Apparently, the temptations of my beloved books are too much to resist. Money, artwork, silver all remain intact, but the books somehow grow feet and walk out the door. I would imagine that the borrower has good intentions, but the books never find their way back home.
While we were in the bookstore, I was thinking about how we could develop a book-drive of unwanted books in the U.S. for the hungry hands and minds of Chile. The loss of my personal books confirms that thought even more.
While expensive, it wasn’t the value of the books themselves that caused them to walk, but rather the value of what they held inside. That is the hunger of Chile.