My family's gone to Moscow for some days and I feel a little bit lost and forgotten :). Probably, this is why I decided to take a walk to a nearby bookstore. It's been quite some time since I was there. Could be six or seven months, I think. The reason for this neglect was not that I quit reading. Quite the contrary. In April, I received a gift from my wife. It was an electronic book, called LBook. LBook is, actually, yet another brand name for the device generally known as Hanlin eReader. LBook is distributed by the Ukrainian company MUK. In some other countries the device is known under other names: Walkbook, papyre, BeBook, EZ Reader or just Hanlin eReader. To see how it works, check this video at YouTube. My LBook works even better, because it runs firmware, modified by some Russian enthusiasts, so, unlike the original Hanlin, it renders HTML, CHM and Epub in a quite readable way.
So, back to the story. I came to the bookstore, hoping to find some synoptic history of Germany and Italy. I did find a couple of books, Histoire de l'Italie by Katherine Brice and Kleine Deutshe Geschichte by Ulrich Herrmann, Andreas Gestrich, Ulf Dirlemeier et al. I had a look at the prices and put the books back to the shelf. $13-16 for a book is a little bit more that what I hoped to spend. Then I found another great book. It was La civilisation de L'europe des Lumieres by Pierre Chaunu. I checked the table of content, browsed through some pages and was ready to run for the cashdesk, when I saw the price. I used to buy the books from this series, like The Byzantine Civilization by Andre Guillou (I wrote about the book before) or the Civilization of Renaissance by Jean Delumeau or The Civilization of the Classic Islam by Dominique and Janine Sourdel and they cost me about $10 (250 rubles). But that last book costs 650 rubles! Even now that RUR/USD rate has plunged from 24 to 27 rubles, it's still 24 dollars, which is more than 3% of my monthly salary. So, I had to place it back ruefully.
No, I didn't just go away empty-handed. I bought a copy of The course of Russian history of 19th century by Alexander Kornilov. He was another historian from those last free thinkers who worked in the early 20th century, like Sergey Platonov or Dmitri Ilovaisky or Vasily Klyuchevsky. A great book. I'm afraid that we won't see a comparable work on 20th century for a very long time. Not from the Russian historians, sorry.
Now, some conclusions. Firstly, Russian business is Russian business, the prices go only one way, up and up. In the 1990s the sellers used to say: "Of course, the prices grow. You know, the dollar's rising", or "Of course, the prices grow. You know, the dollar's falling". No matter what, they said it with the most sincere faces and the expression of deepest conviction. I'm sure that now they will tell us: "Of course, the prices grow. You know, deflation..."
Secondly, once again I thank the Ukrainian sellers of that ebook device, my wife and so called "pirates", who scan books and make them available to those who can't catch up with the prices. Taking into account the digits I saw today, my LBook has already payed off its cost in six months.
Update: (2008-12-02 11:28:42) Follow-up: En passant: answer to Larussophobe