It’s raining here in Bologna, so I came to school on the bus.
Which is much drier (and safer) than riding my motorbike.
Walking to and from the bus stop gave me a chance to look around, in a way I wouldn’t normally do when I’m concentrating on not getting killed.
The city is always changing, of course.
The shops and businesses that make up the street-scape are in constant flux, pushed and prodded by the invisible forces of demand and supply.
The little place where I bought the suit I wore to my wedding has long gone. Though other traditional retail businesses survive, amongst the chains and franchises.
Along with innumerable places to eat and drink, there seem to be make-up shops everywhere these days.
Perhaps the mushrooming of cosmetics retailers is because kids these days don’t have much cash, and so like to spend it on low-priced items.
My daughter’s bedroom is supporting evidence for this theory. It’s chock-full of nail varnish bottles, in every color of the rainbow (and then some!)
Of course, the internet has had an impact on physical shops, too. Nowadays, everything from groceries to gifts seems to be bought online.
My own shopping habits are mostly limited to buying books, and then only when I’m on holiday in the U.K., where the towns and cities are crammed with ‘charity shops’ selling second-hand items.
I was saying to my wife a while back, the fun’s gone out of book shopping, given that you can get anything you want on Amazon, whenever you need it.
At least buying used books from cramped shops staffed by not-very-competent volunteers still offers the chance of a thrill.
There’s the possibility that, searching the shelves of one-time best-sellers, you’ll discover something by a favorite author you haven’t yet read – and at a quarter of the cover price!
But looking out the rain-streaked window of my bus this morning, I didn’t see any book shops, used- or otherwise. Just fast-food, and fast-fashion.
Though they don’t like to admit it, Italians don’t read much – books are a niche interest here, like S&M.
After all, why waste money on reading when you could spend your salary on dressing in the latest style or driving a shiny new car?
That said, because of the university, which is Europe’s oldest, the centre of Bologna has at least four book shops that I know of.
And so, occasionally, when I’m out for a walk around the city, I’ll drop into one of them to browse.
I’m always hoping to come across something useful for learning Swedish. And spending money on books is, after all, fun!
There’s usually a language section of some kind, but there’s rarely much of any use in it.
Once I found a Swedish grammar book, but I’m much too lazy to study grammar. I’d much rather buy a graded reader or similar, but never see them.
I guess it’s my own fault – I should be learning a ‘big’ language, like you guys. There’s always a nice selection for Italian, French, Spanish and German.
But anyway, to business.
Today we have the launch of our newest Italian easy reader ebook, which I mentioned on Friday, remember?
‘Le italiane‘ is B2 (upper-intermediate) level, so quite advanced.
There are eight chapters, each of which tells the story of a well-known, or perhaps less-well known but noteworthy anyway, Italian woman.
Included are actresses, singers and TV personalities, but also a resistance fighter, one of the first female doctors, a victim of the Mafia, a sports star and an astronaut.
This week it’s available at the usual special launch price of £5.99.
Get an idea of the level and type of material, by downloading the free sample chapter (.pdf).
Talking of bookshops, our online version now has material at many different levels.
OK, so it doesn’t have a comfy cafè selling lattes and muffins.
And it isn’t much use if you need to shelter from the rain.
But, on the other hand, you don’t have to brave the February weather to shop there!
Come along, I’ll show you around.
Leave that wet umbrella here, will you?
Pushing through the revolving doors – mind that chihuahua, madam – here we are in the main display area.
This is where we highlight our new publications, and whatever else might be of general interest.
Italian for you, right?
Step this way.
Here we have the two free ebooks, which of course are our best sellers. The idea with these is to give people a taste of what we do, so they can see if it’s the sort of thing they could profit from.
There’s a free easy reader, and a free parallel text. Different formats for different types of learner.
Also here are the online lessons and the five levels of our Italian Workout! series of self-study workbooks.
Then we have the A1-level easy readers, just the thing for beginners.
Moving over here you can see the A1 Italian-English parallel texts, and readers and parallel texts at higher levels: A1/2, A2 and A2/B1.
See how everything is arranged in level order? Not alphabetically, like in a regular bookshop.
Over here are the rest of the A2/B1s, along with the B1s and some of the B1/B2s.
And our most advanced material is here – the remaining B1/B2s, the B2s, and a B2/C1.
Nothing at C2 yet, but we’re working on that.
So, I’ll just leave you to have a look around, shall I?
I’m off for a muffin.