Sunday, 21 August 2011


Well, it appears that just as July was devoted to rereading Victorian novels, August has somehow become a month of German-language classics, with books from Storm, Fontane, Rilke, Goethe and many, many more.  While I will be reading a couple of books in English this month, the vast majority of my reading will be done auf deutsch.  Of course, after all these posts about Teutonic texts, there is one burning question my readers want answered, namely, 'Why did you bother?' 'Where do you source your reading materials?'.  Glad you asked :)

Of course, one of the major sources of my literature (and those of most impoverished Australian book addicts) is The Book Depository, who, with their free delivery worldwide, keep book buying affordable for those of us Down Under - long may it continue, even under the reign of the evil empire...

I've been buying the odd German book from the BD for a couple of years now, but a few weeks back I discovered something which has accelerated the trend somewhat.  You see, I have always been a fan of cheap classics (e.g. the wonderful Wordsworth Editions for English-language classics), but the only German equivalent I was aware of was Reclam (whose small, yellow-covered books remind me too much of my university days).  All of a sudden, after a few random clicks and a couple of internet searches, I stumbled across Hamburger Lesehefte, an imprint which provides cheap copies of German-language out-of-copyright books.  Brilliant!  Admittedly, they have fairly small type and are not exactly designed for the ages, but for a couple of dollars each, I can live with that.  I now have about ten, with more to come...

Of course, when your passion is for books written by people who, to put it politely, are no longer up to appearing at writers' festivals, there is another, cheaper option.  Provided you have an e-reader, you can download out-of-copyright books to your heart's content, and the Kindle I bought earlier this year allows me to do just that.  A bit of a search, a few clicks, and hey presto, you have one of Dickens' novels sitting snugly on the shelves of your virtual library :)

If you also have a Kindle, dear reader, then it's fairly simple to find some free German-language classics.  Simply search in the Kindle store using the search terms "German language" or "German edition", and the friendly people in Hades the world's most excellent online store will do the rest.  If your German's not up to scratch, you may still be lucky enough to find a few freebies, as long as you know which authors to search for (and what else is my blog for if not for that?).

If, for some reason, you'd prefer to look elsewhere, there are a couple of other electronic choices.  The original repository for e-texts is Project Gutenberg, not a reality TV show for budding German writers, but a not-for-profit site dedicated to bringing classic literature to your e-reader.  One drawback to PG is that many of the texts have very long copyright notices, mostly irrelevant for those who just want to read the book and then erase it again.

Personally, I prefer, another site providing e-classics (some of which just appear to have been ripped from PG!), but one which is a little more user-friendly.  It's a lot easier to browse, and I have found some books there which I couldn't find elsewhere.  They also tend to take the annoying copyright messages and put them at the back of the book instead.  Legal? Not sure.  Helpful?  Definitely :)

If all else fails, you can simply trawl the net.  A good Google search will often come up with the book you want; however, it probably won't be in the format you want (often either PDF or simply HTML).  With a bit of ingenuity though, you shouild be able to work out a way to get the text you want into the device you want to read it on ;)

And that's the answer to your (my) question!  I hope this little post has been worthwhile, even if I'm probably preaching to the converted (and, in many cases, the missionaries too).  In any case I hope that through this post, and the many G-Lit reviews I have already posted (and the few I have yet to post), I've managed to persuade someone to give a German-language book a go.  If that happens, then I'll have my answer to that other, slightly more irreverent question...