Thursday, November 26, 2009

There are two markets in Spain which I freely confess to not understanding. Firstly, there’s the property rental market. Despite there fact the country – now more than ever – is awash with empty flats, it can be the devil’s own job finding a decent choice. Or, if you want a short let, nigh on impossible. I believe the root causes – not addressed when times were good – are a universal lack of trust in other people and the knowledge there are no effective legal recourses if tenants default. Of course, these elements are linked but only the latter is susceptible to government action. Some day.

The other market which floors me is that for books. I’ve bought two Spanish books recently, both of which seemed expensive for what they were. Especially now that the pound is so low against the euro. The only place where you can get books in Spain is in bookshops which seem to me to be run on early 20th century lines (at least in Pontevedra) and which are said to survive on school book sales. Assisted by stringent resale price maintenance on everything they sell. But here’s the really strange thing . . . Although the Spanish don’t seem to be a nation of book readers – you rarely see anyone reading one in public – a knowledgeable friend assures me Spain ranks very high when it comes to the number of titles published each year. And, naturally, very low in unit sales and, therefore, royalties per author. So, who’s making money? And how? Subventions again?

Talking of books . . . I’ve just published a couple of more chapters of Aubrey Bell’s 1912 collection of essays entitled Magic Spain. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for these. One of them is on travelling in Spain in the early years of the 20th century. Mr Bell is a great admirer of the Spanish but doesn’t pull his punches on the negatives. Rather like one of his heroes, George Borrow. Here’s his overview on the importance of patience. Some might stay it still holds more true than false . . . . And still the golden rule for the traveller in Spain is never to be in a hurry or never to show that he is in a hurry, for by doing so he will increase delays and defeat his object. He must learn the Spanish proverb thoroughly - Paciencia y barajar - “Patience, and shuffle the cards.” Patience and courtesy he will find to be above rubies. The Spaniard, so sensitive and excitable, remains unmoved by delays and petty official tyrannies which drive an Englishman into a kind of despair and fury of impatience.

Finally, I read a lot today about the upcoming AGW conference in Copenhagen. But I will leave this until tomorrow, confining myself to the comment that Spain is one of the countries which has not met its Kyoto obligations. And the prediction that this won’t prevent our newspapers from pontificating about the big bad Americans over the next few weeks.


mike the trike said...

A Galega friend of mine rented out a two bedroomed apartment and the young fellow who rented defaulted after living there two years and when she managed to get into the flat he had trashed it and it cost her 4000€ to put it right. A friend had recommended the tenant so it goes to show you that even recommendations are not always reliable. I guess a list with the DNI of the tenants would help and any who defaulted would be blacklisted and the same for bad landlords.

Midnight Golfer said...

A blacklist is a novel idea. listanegra,org are all already taken, but none are being used as actual websites.
There don't appear to be any MLS multi-listing services in Spain, either.

My carbon-footprint is microscopic in comparison to anyone who travels to Copenhagen. So, they can all shove it...

CafeMark said...

Books are more expensive in Spain, but to complain about this on the day Borders (a major bookstore in the UK) went bust, is, perhaps, bad timing! As for the reading of books - I used to see plenty of folk reading books on the Madrid metro. For some reason Ken Follett was popular at that time. I suspect that was because the papers were giving away paperbacks at the time though.. There again I live in a famous UK university city and away from the student areas I don't see people reading books either.

Ferrolano said...

Flying between the north and the south of Spain, I do see a fair number of fellow passengers reading books of all descriptions. However, what would be the result if the local bars and cafes left books on the counter rather than newspapers?

Xoán-Wahn said...

''...a universal lack of trust in other people and the knowledge there are no effective legal recourses if tenants default.''

Sounds about right. Coming from the US, this has really shocked me a lot. I know Spain isn't the only country with this issue but I can't understand why it exists at all. If you rent a place out and someone defaults, they should have to leave after a time. If your home is invaded, the police and the courts should back you, not the invaders!

''I’ve bought two Spanish books recently, both of which seemed expensive for what they were.''

Story of my life right now. University text books are flimsy and they don't fall below the €25 mark!

Keefieboy said...

I see tons of people reading books on the Metro. And the price, well, as an aspiring writer, I'm biased, but the free-for-all book market in the UK has only encouraged UK publishers to put their weight behind best-selling authors who are guaranteed to shift hundreds of thousands of copies: this is done to the exclusion of unproven writers. The only ones making money out of selling books now are the likes of Tesco and Amazon.

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