So how would you spend your 40 Aussie dollars at Amazon?

Aussie dollars

If you live in Australia, you are used to paying a lot for your books.

I am Australian, and I had no idea I had been paying so much until I moved to the UK and saw how cheap books were here, and that was in the days when it cost you three Aussie dollars for one English pound.

Since then it has got even better. After much reluctance I fell under the Amazon spell resulting in ever more amazing deals, and the exchange rate now means it only costs around $1.60 for one pound sterling.

For a book-lover, it is heaven. Quite often I can buy a book for less than most people’s daily coffee budget. Now the constraints on my book buying are not about money – but more about the lack of space in a one-bedroom London flat.

But in Australia, where the average price for a book is something like $20, I would be thinking twice before every purchase. Buying a book would become quite the luxury.

But bookshops are in trouble…

Despite these high prices – and I understand some of that is due to artificial means to protect someone or other along the way – bookshops are struggling. Staff at two of the largest chains, Borders and Angus and Robertson, are waiting to find out which of their hundreds of stores are to close, as the companies behind them try to cut costs to survive. And people are asking questions as to the viability of bookshops at all.

This is no doubt painful for those who love to read. There is no Amazon in Australia, and like most of us of a certain age, many continue to hold great love for bookshops. So where does that leave the Australian reader? Torn, no doubt. Does this make you determined to support the remaining bookshops to keep them alive? Or are you going to give in to the lure of cheap online bookshops – a category Packabook also falls into, even though we like to consider ourselves a boutique service.

What should you do?

Only you can make that decision. Do you support bookshops by paying up to three times the cost of a book you can buy online? Or do you decide that change is inevitable, and you may as well enjoy a lot more books in the meantime, supporting writers and publishers from a different direction…

If you are considering going down the online route – Amazon UK is making it easy for you. Until May 2011, it is offering free postage to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India if you spend 25 pounds on books. Who knows what will happen after that. If we are lucky it is an experiment which will become a permanent policy, if not, it’s a rare chance for you to pick up some books at a great price.

It got me thinking about what I would buy with my 25 pounds if I was going to take the plunge…

Twenty five pounds is around 40 Australian dollars – for that you can buy 2 to 2.5 books in Australia. (It appears you can get some books for around $17.95, but that was the cheapest I could find.) From Amazon I can buy six books for the same money.

(Apologies to those of you in the US. Due to the nature of this post, the links and prices all refer to Amazon UK, but I have created a US link for each of the books if you would like to check out the titles at Amazon US).

Here’s my list

This is what I would buy with £25 from Amazon. Please note – with Amazon, prices change all the time, so you may not see exactly the same price if you click through – but this was what was on offer at the time of writing.

The Long Song by Andrea Levy The Long Song by Andrea Levy – set in Jamaica – £4.00
US link
In this latest novel from the author of Small Island, July is the child of a slave and a slave-master, living on a sugar plantation in the early 19th century. Born into slavery, she lives through the struggle to abolition and the freedom that follows.

The book cuts deep but the author does an amazing job of keeping the reader gripped from the very first page. Absolute work of art !!! ” – Amazon Reviews.  Average of four stars.

Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna – set in India – £4.00
US link
I haven’t heard a great deal about this one, but it sounds like a perfect Packabook book, and I love the cover!
As a child, Devi befriends a young boy whose mother has died in tragic circumstances. Devi and Devanna become inseparable, until Devi meets the man she vows to marry.

“This book immediately grabs your attention with it’s descriptions of landscape and people, with prose of such elegant literary quality that enhances the story and makes the book such a pleasure to read. A veritable feast for the senses. ” – Amazon Reviews.  Average of four and a half stars.

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer The Glass Room by Simon Mawer  – The Czech Republic – £4.80
US link
One of my favourite reads last year. Mawer’s book is set in the former Czechoslovakia in the 1930’s – when a Jewish family builds a stunning modern house. (Based on Villa Tugendhat in Brno which is now an icon of modern architecture). We follow the drama of Victor and Leisel’s lives and marriage, as war approaches the country. This amazing house is always central to the novel, and it certainly gave me a new appreciation of architecture along with a great story.

“I suppose the highest praise I could give this novel is that I would like to start reading it again from the beginning.” – Amazon Reviews.  Average of 4.4 stars.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey – Trinidad – £4.19
US link
It’s the mid-1950’s and George and Sabine Harwood arrive in Trinidad from England. George relishes their new life, but Sabine does not. She doesn’t like the heat, feels isolated and is nervous of upcoming political change on the island. But then she falls under the spell of a charismatic political leader…

“This is one of the best books I have read in years. It has everything you want from a novel – incredible use of language, fascinating context (Trinidad’s emerging independence) and wonderful characters who stay with you long after the book is finished.” – Amazon Reviews.  Average of  four stars.

Cutting For Stone Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese – Mainly Ethiopia, but other countries along the way – £4.69
US link
The story of identical twins born to an Indian nun and a British doctor in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The book spans spans decades and continents, but reviewers say it gives a very real portrayal of Ethiopia in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Not for the squeamish as there are some very realistic descriptions of surgery!

“An intelligent and gripping story which will remain with you long after the final page has been turned.” – Amazon reviews.  Average of 4 and a half stars.

One Day by David Nicholls One Day by David Nicholls – England – £3.99
US link
This is the story of Dex and Emma who meet as students in 1988. For the next twenty odd years we get to see what they are up to on July 15th each year – discovering their love and hate for each other, their insecurities, and their inability to tell each other what they really think.

“Nicholls has created two characters that are truly archetypes for the modern generation: the aimless, boy-man who believes he can get by on charm alone, and the woman who refuses to settle for anything, be it jobs, men or ideals…An emotional journey, but not without its gorgeous descriptions of London and truly humorous moments.” – Amazon reviews. Average of 3.7 stars.

What would you choose?

So, if I have done my calculations correctly (and there is definitely no guarantee of that!) the grand total is £25.67 or A$41.52. And until May at least, there’s no cost for sending it to you. If you can wait a few weeks for your books, then this is a great deal.

Here’s all the details on how to get the free postage.

What about you? What would you put in your £25 basket? Or are you eschewing Amazon and sticking to supporting your local bookshop despite the cost? Let us know in the comments….

Suzi

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


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Welcome new Packabookers!

There’s been quite a flurry of activity at Packabook lately with a number of new signups to our emails and blogposts, so I thought I would take a moment to welcome you all to the Packabook community.

Our aim is to bring together people who really enjoy the sense of place that novels can provide, whether it is to learn more about the history of a place or just to feel like they have been transported to somewhere exotic. Here’s a bit of a rundown of some of the things we have going on:

One Country One Book

From the moment you sign up to Packabook’s free newsletters, you begin a journey around the world in which we visit one country for a month and read one book that is set there. Each week (more or less!) you receive an email in which we take a closer look at the book and the place in which it is set, exploring some of the facts behind the novel and the things you could do if you visited that location. It’s our own special kind of book club and is exclusive to those who sign up by email.

World Party Reading Challenge

This is a challenge running on the blog in which we focus on one country a month and encourage you to read anything that is set there – novels, memoirs, plays, travelogues – anything that takes your fancy. If you have your own blog, you can then write a review and provide us with a link so we can all be inspired by what you have read. This month we are in Iran, and in February we are off to England. Take a look at all the World Party Reading Challenge posts and see what we have been reading so far.

Facebook and Twitter

If you haven’t already done so, then we’d love you to follow Packabook on twitter and like us on Facebook. This is where we link to some excellent travel articles, let you know when we come across a great price on a favorite novel at Amazon, and find inspiring (and amusing!) stories in the world of books. Want to know how to turn your favorite book into a handbag? That’s the kind of thing you just might find on our facebook page! Most of this never makes it to the blog, so you will need to get yourself over to facebook or twitter if you’d like to join in….

Finally I’d like to thank you for your support. Packabook is a fairly new venture with an ambitious plan to see people all around the world learning more about the countries of this amazing planet through reading great novels. We have had great feedback from those who have already come on board, and we wish you the most excellent adventures ahead.

And don’t forget – we always welcome suggestions for books with a great sense of place that we should be adding to Packabook. Just drop us an email or send us a tweet.

Thanks again and happy reading,

Suzi

What? You are not whether you should sign up for our emails? Read some more about why you should give it a go

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


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Welcome to our World Party Reading Challenge

 

UPDATE: The World Party Reading Challenge is now over – but we made some great discoveries – you can read the related posts at the following links…

Afghanistan
Turkey
Greece
Iran
England
Ireland
Jamaica
Pakistan
Russia
Spain
Thailand

It’s an exciting day here at Packabook as we kick off our World Party Reading Challenge – a challenge which has been gifted to us from the owner of the Fizzy Thoughts Blog after she decided she was not cut out for such a long term project.

Thanks Softdrink and a big welcome to Fizzy Thoughts followers who have come to visit us at Packabook and see what we are all about.

While it would be impossible for me to imitate Softdrink’s delightful and unique reviewing style, I am sure we can tap into some of the enthusiasm she was able to generate with her 12-month challenge to celebrate a country each month by reading a book which is set there.

The challenge is about getting a real sense of place, of delving into a country’s history and culture through fiction and fabulous characters.Blue Girl Reading

And we need your help.

This is how it will work.

Each month I will write a post on a particular country with a selection of novels for you to consider reading. I will choose one of those novels and discuss it in greater detail, including some fascinating facts related to the story that I dig up from the internet or possibly my own travels.
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You can then choose one of the novels from the list or tell us about something else you have read set in that country. You’ll be able to post comments, and links to your own blog where you discuss the book (or books!)

To make the most of the challenge I’d encourage you to follow Packabook on Facebook and Twitter as much of the discussion will move over there, so that regular blog readers who do not want to be part of the challenge are not inundated with our compelling insights and stimulating comments…(are they listening….are they tempted yet?).

And that’s it. By the end of the month we are going to have a fantastic resource to look back on, and will no doubt feel as if we have traveled to the country itself!

While the challenge will officially begin in the first week of October, I’m giving you a few days head start.

We are going to kick-off with a country at the beginning of the alphabet and head to Afghanistan.

I will be focusing on Andrea Busfield’s Born Under a Million Shadows. Feel free to join me with that one, or read something else.

Here’s a great list of books set in Afghanistan to give you some ideas, and if you haven’t yet read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns, I can’t recommend them enough.

So are you ready?

Here’s your checklist.
1) Let us know in the comments below that you are taking part, and feel free to post a link to a blog post of your own where you discuss it.
2) Like us on Facebook
3) Follow us on Twitter
4) Choose a book set in Afghanistan
5) Start reading
6) And if you are a blogger and fancy putting a button on your blog. Here’s the code..

<div align="center"><a href="http://packabook.com/blog/432/welcome-to-our-world-party-reading-challenge/" title="World Party Reading Challenge" target="_blank"><img src="http://packabook.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/worldpartybutton-e1294045620352.jpg" alt="World Party Reading Challenge" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

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Suzi

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


Kids vs books+travel – can you have it all?

Packabook ventured into uncharted territory this week with a guest post at a parenting website. Parents read, right? You know – all that time they have when the kids are sleeping?

Ok – so we are being a little provocative….

See for yourself at The Parenting Myth, a great blog for those Moms and Dads who want a bit of brutal honesty and humor mixed in with the ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaaahhs’ of parenthood.

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


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Writers of the future announced…

The New Yorker’s selection of the best writers under the age of 40 has plenty to offer Packabook readers searching for stories set in foreign lands. Due to be released on Monday, the “20 under 40” list of fiction writers highlights those authors it believes are well worth watching in the years ahead. And the list is blessed with writers who come with heritages stemming as far afield as Ethiopia, Russia, Peru and the Balkans.

View 20 Under 40 Titles

Nigerian-born Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is on my list of all-time reading highlights, doing exactly what we love at Packabook – revealing a story about a country and its history that we previously knew nothing about. This haunting novel is the story of two wealthy sisters during the time of the Nigerian-Biafran War of the late 1960’s.

Daniel Alarcon writes of a fictional South American country in his Lost City Radio combining elements of history from Peru, Argentina and Chile. And in his short story collection War By Candlelight the tales are mainly set in Peru – especially in the poorest areas of Lima.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated is set in Ukraine and Yiyun Li’s A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is a collection of ten stories exploring the effects of China’s Cultural Revolution. While some of the stories are in America, most take place in small-town and rural China, a setting also explored in her novel The Vagrants.

Belgrade-born Tea Obreht’s debut novel The Tiger’s Wife is not due out until next year, but it will be set in a fictionalised  Balkans.

The immigrant experience is also a  popular topic for the writers on the list – from Salvatore Scibona’s novel The End which tells of Italian immigrants in Cleveland, Ohio, to Dinaw Mengetu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, the story of an Ethiopian grocery store owner who fled his country after seeing his father murdered by soldiers during a 1974 military coup.

So now you have a head start on the writers expected to influence our literary culture over the next ten years, there’s not much else to do except grab one or two of their books and start reading. We’ll be joining you…

Suzi

P.S. Make sure you keep up to date with all the latest Packabook suggestions by joining our mailing list – you’ll receive the blog posts and be able to take part in our One Country One Book journey around the world….

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Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


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Please note - if you read our reviews and click on our links to buy books, we will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and we thank you for your support! Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com