What if we save bookshops ?

The cultural wealth of a country is based, among others, on the relationship between a bookshop and its customers. While we are faced with new modes of digital distribution, is there room for bookshops?

Jules Verne said that “Earth does not need new continents, but new men!” At the time of the accelerated development of the internet and the crisis, which we are still recovering from, many independent bookshops have been forced out of business or to exist in a precarious situation. Places of life, places of encounter, places of stories, these bookshops are part of our heritage and the cultural exception of a nation.

Through the threshold of a bookshop, beyond a simple act of commercial buying, the reader seeks life and advice. Behind our decision to choose a certain book, often hides the advice of a bookseller who brings the work to life. How could we find the book that went unnoticed on the web but is a real jewel? Who better than a bookseller to advise us on a book that we would like? When you enter a bookstore, it’s as if time stops … another world opens …this place will definitely not close.

If algorithms are to guide our choices, then I doubt that the pleasure will last long. In one or two clicks, the internet allows us to buy a book on a specialized website. When robots keep track of our previous purchases, they can guide us to our favorite authors and genres. On modern websites they can guide the reader to make a better selection. We can even impose a selection of books. Through these modern platforms, pleasure can easily escape. Do you think these websites can replace the passionate booksellers?

Grzegorz Rosinski thinks that “the comic is the evasion”. Being a fan of comics, I can’t imagine a world without specialized bookshops. I can’t imagine buying a digital album which has less authenticity and where the colors don’t have the same brightness.

For the communication between specialists, some tell me that there will always be forums or social networks to exchange albums, to talk about the latest novels or drawing techniques. But the exchange between fans will be less intense. If the association of amateurs “ligne claire” that I created through the internet continues to exist, it is thanks to the combination of these virtual encounters with a few real lives. Thanks to these encounters true friendships were born. Is it possible to put so much effort into something digital? I’m not sure…

If the bookstores continue to close one by one and disappear, where will we be able to find the characteristic smell of paper? Will “physical books” become a privilege available in the few bookstores specializing in “old” books?

The “desert” found in specialized bookshops continues to increase in some cities like Paris, while in other places I see more stores closing … We must stop this movement and save the life that is maintained in the Latin Quarter, in the Beaubourg neighborhood and some others in Paris . We must act or else, part of our heritage runs the risk of disappearing.

Christian Bobin said that “a great book begins long before the book”. How many bookshops will be open in a few years if readers do not support them? How many editors will remain alive if the edition is made by a program? Will we have some authors left? Without a point of sale, where will we be able to find books out of the ordinary that are less well-known? Without sales, what will these professionals live on?

We need to create plans for a real safeguard to maintain the culture and jobs of this sector. We should preserve the freedom of selection that we still have today. We need to cherish and be happy when we go to these bookshops to pay as they need to be preserved for their heritage. If not, perhaps we might end up doomed behind our screens. Will we be stuck behind screens dreaming about the old pleasures of reading a physical book? As Bernard Werber said, one always has to think that “The bookshop is the secret of freedom.

Alban Jarry

Translation with Sophie Perrin

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