Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Books Are More Interesting than the Internet" - The Comeback of European Bookstores

Bookstore Dominicans in Maastricht
Print book sales seem to be increasing again (in 2015 for example in the US with 2.8%; in the UK with 1.3% ; and in the Netherlands with 3.5%.) Possibly this is also due to the come back of brick & mortar bookstores, especially in Europe with new initiatives to appeal to readers.

In Paris, for example, the Librairie des Puf, run by the publisher University Press of France, basically is an open nearly empty space, but their customers can choose from 5,000 titles published by University Press of France and over three million books from other publishers. These books can be ordered and are printed on request by an Espresso Book Machine. (ed.: Cosimo's catalog is also available through the Espresso Book Machine)

The New York Times stated in a recent article:

"It is a radical reinvention of a store that first opened its doors in 1921. The original Librairie des Puf occupied a far larger, multilevel space in the corner of Place de la Sorbonne, and had packed window displays and a bustling intellectual crowd from nearby universities. It was long a cultural and academic symbol, until it was forced to close because of falling profits and soaring rents. Then, about 10 years ago, the site was sold to a men’s­ clothing chain, much to the chagrin of locals."

Rent increases and strong competition from online bookstores caused many bookstores in Paris to close during the first decade of this century. The Paris city council then decided to do something to support culturally significant enterprises by setting up a program buying retail spaces across Paris, and renting them to bookstores at below market rates. Low overhead combined with the availability of many books on demand seems to become a successful formula for Libraire des Puf.

Also in London many bookstores are coming up with new ways of differentiating themselves from online bookstores and attracting more visitors and customers. A number of small independent bookstores are now offering friendly environments that are internet free and becoming increasingly popular with book lovers and others who want to browse books without being distracted by mobile phones and online searches.

The owner of one such a bookstore, Tenderbooks, which opened in 2014, says: “The thing about books is that they’re more interesting than the internet — we assume that everyone who comes here believes that.” The owner of another London bookstore, Libreria Books, which is also internet and coffee ­free zone, says that his store is attracting twice as many customers as anticipated and that “its old-fashioned space is clearly appealing to book lovers."

In the Netherlands, bookstores, too, have been experiencing hard times, with the demise of the Polare bookchain last year and many small bookstores closing. But new initiatives such as the Boekhandel Dominicanen (the Dominican bookstore) a bookstore located in a 700 year old Dominican church in the city of Maastricht (see picture above) are attracting customers and much attention. The British newspaper the Guardian called this: "The fairest bookshop of the world, a bookshop made in heaven”.

So, it seems hard times, caused by online bookstores, changing consumer behavior, and uncertain economic circumstances, have pushed many booksellers to become more creative: from using new print technologies to recreating the historic charm of bookstores, bookstores are coming back. Let's hope this will be an ongoing trend.

No comments:

Post a Comment