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November 17th, 2007
I get a fair number of questions from people who ask about bringing their books to Costa Rica when they move.
I have been fond of reading all of my life, and when I first came to Costa Rica, moving all my books (maybe 2,000 or so) was a big decision. Most were hard bound, but I had a fair number of paperbacks as well.
On the one hand, I really wanted my books but was not thrilled with the idea of packing those babies. Then, there was the cost of shipping them. Books are not exactly light, and when you are paying by the pound for an international move, you start to re-think every item in terms of its weight (cost to ship) and duties (taxes) that will have to be paid upon entering the country.
Sadly, when I was planning the “big move” there were NO Blogs to help me and very few resources other than the ARCR to advise me on the realities of Costa Rica.
If I had just know then what I know now, the decision making would not have been such a big deal, and my long term solution to reading (see below) would never have been part of my decision making. I would have brought far fewer books. That is because many of the books I brought with me are now gone.
One good thing to know, and one less item to worry about, is that books are not taxed here. There are no duties to pay so you can bring in as many as you wish without worrying about that. Shipping them however, is not free, so that may enter into your decision. Also, if you use a good Costa Rica mover, most have little “tricks” they use to lessen your tax burden overall by using books as a little “helper”.
In my case, I decided to triage the books, bringing only those I thought I would likely want to read once again. As throwing out a book (to me) is sort of like throwing out your firstborn child, I had to do a lot of hard triaging. I ended up leaving a ton at my daughter’s house, and all were later destroyed when her home flooded.
Sadly, of the many books I did bring, many are also now gone. What I did not know is that hard bound books and Costa Rica often do not mix. The humidity here will make short work of your books, especially if you live anywhere near any of the beaches. I do not. I live in the central valley near San Jose where the humidity is a fraction of what it is at the beach, but still, the first two or three winters (green season or rainy season) took a heavy toll. I had my books in a bookcase (duh) and the mold and mildew grew between them and often on the pages themselves. This took 2-3 years where I live, but friends tell me that process takes but a few months if you live on the coasts.
So I switched to buying paperbacks only at the numerous librerías (book stores) that are all over the central valley. My favorite was in Multiplaza.
That worked for a while, but even paperbacks are horribly expensive here, often the cost of a hard-bound in the US, and they of course could not be stored together because if the moisture issue.
It was last fall (2006) when I was at the airport in Miami that I met someone using his iPod to listen to a book! I listened a bit and my how times have changed. They now use actors and professionals to read the books and thus the characters actually have different voices. It was not like years before. As just about everyone these days either owns an Apple iPod (see photo) or some other music player (MP3), including me, I got to thinking that there may no longer be a need to actually buy the book at all. As I could not keep them here anyway, why not give this a shot.
I found a US based company who, at the time, was offering a free iPod for joining for six months. As I wanted an iPod or similar player anyway, this seemed like a fine idea if the cost of the books was not outrageous. Even if I was not happy, I had the iPod!
As it turned out, I joined for a year, and I ended up paying an average of about $8-9 per book, about two thirds of the cost of a paperback in Costa Rica. They also allowed me to upgrade iPods to get the fancier version that played movies, and I just paid the difference.
I now have about 50 books on there and when I am not working, I am often out on the patio with a cigar, a drink and
reading listening to a book. Right now it is A Thousand Splendid Suns, a superb book!
Ok… this part is going to sound like an advertisement, but there is just no other way to explain how this all works.
The company that offers this is called Audible. Again this year, they are offering a similar deal so you can get a complimentary iPod Shuffle when you join Audible.com. If you already have some type of MP3 player, it will probably work fine and there is also a discount banner ad for Audible on the left side of this page.
When I did this, they sent a gift certificate for the iPod and I was allowed to upgrade to the one I have now that allows me to watch movies of my granddaughter and family. I even have Shrek Three on there for my wife’s nephews and nieces.
I would suggest you try this first. You can listen to samples of all books on the web site. They offer almost all of the best sellers while they ARE best sellers and a ton of others as well. You simply download them to your computer and they get installed automatically on your iPod or other player. You do not need to be a tech weeny to do this.
Then you listen when you want! Somehow, they work it so if you get interrupted, it always takes you back to where you stopped reading. Sort of an electronic bookmark I guess. I drive around a lot in Costa Rica, and I am always listening to a book. At night, the TV disturbs my wife so I just listen in bed without bugging her.
Always listen to a sample before buying. Always read what other say about the book!
While the readers these days are generally very good, all are not! A bad reader can make a good book kinda boring. The good readers bring the book to life… kinda like listening to A GOOD old time radio drama. Some books are read by the author. Listening to George Carlin, for example, is VERY good and very funny as he reads it as he wrote it.
The only way to tell is to listen first to the sample and to read what other have written. I have written several reviews and for sure, not all were nice! To their credit, they published every word, so I know that they do not filter the comments to make a lousy book sound good.
Finally, if you like this form of “reading”, get the annual plan. Books only cost about $8.00 average on the annual plan.
And… of course… no more mildew!
Filed under Audio Books, Books and Reading, Costa Rica, Expatriate Life, Life in Costa Rica, Living in Costa Rica, Moving to Costa Rica | Comments (10)