Vive La Bookstore!

from The New Yorker

Everywhere in the world may look more and more like everywhere else, but there are still a few proudly Gallic institutions that you can count on spotting in any city or town in France: cafés that thrive in spite of Starbucks, bakeries with their total indifference to things gluten-free, tabacs that keep hanging on as smokers turn to e-cigarettes. Most pleasing of all, in this age of Amazon, are the independent bookstores—around two thousand five hundred of them, all told. Paris alone has nearly seven hundred, one for every three thousand citizens, though the ratio of bookstores to readers often feels closer to one to one. If you can’t find the Colette novel you’re looking for on Rue de Reuilly, you just go two blocks over to the Rue de Charonne, or to Faubourg Saint-Antoine, where bookstores share the street with Algerian tea shops and furniture makers that predate the Revolution. This isn’t a university neighborhood with an intellectual pedigree. It’s just the way things are there—pretty different from here. In a recent study of the American cities with the most bookstores, and the most per capita, New York didn’t make the top ten in either category. To a New Yorker who spent her formative years witnessing the routing of independent bookstores by Barnes & Noble, and then the gutting of Barnes & Noble by Amazon, the situation in Paris is luxurious beyond belief.

More here.

One Response to Vive La Bookstore!

  1. Samantha Voltmer February 19, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

    In my opinion there are two things that motivate what a person buys or does. They are: how much the thing in question is going to cost them, the cheaper the better, and how little time it is going to take them to do it. If it is cheap and it is fast, then surely it must be the best option. Unfortunately this is the mindset of many Americans, and because of this attitude our society’s culture is slowing fading away. We no longer want to sip a steaming cup of coffee from a mom and pop coffee shop, we rather have a five dollar cup of mediocre coffee, just because it looks better on Instagram. We no longer want to have a freshly baked cupcake filled with age old family secrets, rather something that is falsely labeled as a dessert. Finally, and the worst yet, our lives are too busy, to enjoy the laid back atmosphere of a creaky floored bookstore. Rather we just order our books on Amazon, for a cheaper price and receive them in two days’ time.

    However, is this the best option? Is our desire to save money and our time actually destroying some of the best age old traditions? With the growth of Amazon came the fall of local bookstores. I remember growing up there was a bookstore in my town. It was very small, but going there was my favorite outing. Right in front was the kid’s corner; it had a little table and chairs, with puzzles and, in the eyes of a child, thousands of books. Unfortunately, this little bookstore two minutes from my house, closed and turned into a Five Guys. I remember when they were closing, the owners were very upset, mostly because their business was dying, but because it showed that the people of my town had given up on buying their books locally.

    Thankfully, not all countries are behaving in the manner of America, and some still honor the tradition of going to a bookstore, to purchase a book. For example, as focused in this article, France has gone above and beyond to ensure the life of bookstores. In 1981 their government passed a law called Lang Law, this ensures that online and mass chain bookstores (i.e. Amazon) do not offer a discounted price greater than five percent. This then decreases the costumer’s motives to buy online greatly, giving more sales to the local bookstores. Although France’s government is just as shaky as our own, it stands fairly universal on this topic. France looks down upon Amazon, they believe that Amazon is trampling culture and tradition. I have to agree with France, Amazon may be more convenient and cheaper, but there is nothing that can be compared to the experience of a bookstore.

    Without bookstores not only are you decreasing your availability to books, you are also decreasing your amount of social interaction to those who are around you. In my town’s bookstore I always felt like everyone knew everyone, it was a social meeting place. In France these bookstores are places for people to connect, to discover new cultures, and grow in knowledge together. As the article notes, it is not because these bookstores are located near a university, or the people around them are more scholarly than most. It is because the people of France recognize the importance of tradition over the selfish desires of needing the cheapest and best options. Bookstores are now looked upon as a thing of the past, a museum almost, and this is a scary thought. A world without a bookstore, is not a world that I would want to live in. I think Americans should do as the French in this case, and save the few remaining bookstores from the inevitable destruction they are facing.

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