on a passionate love affair
It is Friday morning the 23rd of April. Welcome to world-book day…
I usually do not follow these programmed days to celebrate, to commemorate or, let’s be honest, to be forced to buy stuff one usually would not even look at. Of course, programmed celebration-days are important, as they open doors and get the people’s attention for subjects, objects, illnesses or issues they would probably not be bothered about on a normal day, whatever that means. I am fully aware of that. So today I am going to make an exception towards my questionable neutrality linked to celebration-days…
I like books, I like to touch them, I like to look at them and I like to read them. I am somehow obsessed with their paper and the smell of the printing ink et cetera. I love to buy them, to possess them : Ex libris ThB
Did you binge-read Pennac?
Living in the city of lights for more than ten years now has only enhanced this passionate love affair. These small, independent and specialised bookstores all around the city are amazing wunderkammers, spaces to spend one’s afternoon. The perfect place to be, after a healthy lunch and before the well deserved aperitif. Reading (books) is an incredible exercise for one’s brain, fantasy and imagination. It is also a beautiful gesture and a mindful counter-occupation to looking at newsfeeds or binge-watching series. Sharing a book, as a gift or just so, is surely one of the most intimate and personal acts of respect and friendship one can do, at least for me.
I am very happy that the small independent bookstores have planned a special celebration for tomorrow. 40 years of the “loi Lang” in France (after the old Secretary of Culture, Jack Lang). Amongst other things, the law regulates and unifies the prices of books in order to allow general access for everyone. Go and visit them (here is the list). Definitely also another way to thank all readers for their tenacity and pressure to get the French government to classify books as essential goods. This change of legislation allowed the bookstores to keep their doors open during this third lockdown. A needed and overdue action.
Now this is surely the point where a lot of people would start to complain, rant or blame certain American Big Tech companies for their aggressive and destructive approach to selling books. I will not… I am not minimizing the damage they create and I do surely not like it, but I am sometimes part of this damage. Often because I can get English books faster, but most of the time just out of simple laziness. I admit it.
what about ordering books online?
I would love to order my books out of Andy Hunter’s site, but it is only serving the UK and the US for now. Unfortunately and to my knowledge, there is no similar business concept available in France and that is a real pity. “Bookshop”, the mentioned online store, is being described as a “revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling” : a socially conscious alternative to Amazon that allows readers to buy books online while supporting their local independent bookseller. Mister Hunter believes the reason for Bookshop’s quick success is readers’ fondness for their local booksellers, and he is surely right about that. “Bookstores have been in trouble for a while because of Amazon’s growth, but this pandemic has really accelerated it. Amazon has gotten much more powerful, while there are 100-year-old stores that are hanging on for survival,” he said. “I think we were so successful because enough people were conscious of that, and wanted to rally around their beloved bookstores, because they care about the world that we emerge from this pandemic into (Flood, 2020).”
What is really amazing about the “low-tech” or digitally minimal approach to selling books online via “Bookshop” is its browsing experience. It is indeed intended to “mirror the joy of discovering a new book in a physical bookshop”, says the company, with experts, rather than algorithms, doing the curating.
The important things to retain for today, as for every other day from now on: please support your local independent book dealers, the writers and publishers in order to assure the beauty of the objects we are celebrating today. Looking forward to meeting you in my favorite store in Paris.
Let’s read together, while having a cup of coffee.
Flood, A., This is revolutionary, November 2020, the Guardian: link