What is a bookshop nowadays?

La Fugitiva in Antón Martín

The door opens and a young girl enters. She decides to take a sit in the table closer to the window. She opens her wallet and gets out her computer, she probably has works to do for the university. She remains a moment watching through the window the people passing by in the street. The waitress arrives to the table and offers the young girl a coffee or any other delicacy. We are in La Fugitiva. “I usually come here because I like the environment, it is a somewhere I can calmly study surrounded by books and at the same time have something to drink and eat”, explains Mariana Muñoz, the young girl.

La Fugitiva in Antón Martín

La Fugitiva, is one of the many bookshops that have had to search the way to differentiate from the others, to offer something new in the market. It is a coffee-bookshop, “a place not just to buy books but also somewhere to meet”, explains us Clea Moreno, the person in charge of the center. It was opened in 2011 and is located in Antón Martín. When you enter in this little establishment in the center of Madrid, you will find a working atmosphere, full of silence, various shelves full of books, some tables taken by people lost in their readings or studies. And, at the bottom, a women beyond a bar that prepares drinkings or literary cakes for the clients. The bookshop offers all kind of literary genres: essais, novels, poetry, theatre, for kids, cinema and even music.

La Fugitiva

But La Fugitiva has gone beyond in the concept of coffee-bookshop, but also offers many other activities. “We have seen that the concept of just bookshop is working less and less and it is necessary to introduce new things”, says Clea Moreno. The bookshop organises workshops on philosophical social gatherings, chess, creative writing, a reading club in English and even film projections. The activities “are open, they are not for a fee. La Fugitiva I think is one of the unique places where the space is for free”.

Arrebato Libros in Malasaña

Going across the street La Palma is like going over a street full of different and original shops, which do not offer what the stores usually do. Between them, we find Arrebato Libros, a bookshop, publishing house and a nucleus of cultural management. All at the same time. The project started in Barcelona in the 90s with a fanzine, where they published all what people sent them. “We wanted to have room for voices not very known”, affirms Pepe Olona, director and coordinator of the bookshop in Madrid. It was opened in 2004 in the capital, although it moved to Malasaña in 2008.

The project “consists of showing all that is unusual to find in the bookshops”, explains Olona. They offer second-hand books, first editions and books signed by the authors. The publishing house is focused mainly on poetry. “We try to show this kind of things that are not usual to see in a height of poetical creation and also a little bit the idea of erasing this concept of boring and elitist poetry and move it closer to the public and that so people could enjoy in a night a festival on poetry as they do on music”.

Arrebato Libros is mainly focused on the genre of poetry. “It seemed to us a genre that was being transformed, and, in fact, it has been like this and there have been created many festivals, events, new publishing houses and many other ways of bringing it to the light”, explains Olona in an interview published in Culturamas. The bookshop also organises a poetry festival: Poetas por km², that this year has even get to New York. Poetas por km² “is not a festival, but a poetical festival”, with the reading of poetries, poetry-slams, music and performances. The festival “promotes alternatives ways of poetical expressions”, according to its own definition in the website.

TuuuLibrería in Chamberí

We move to another scene. There is an old man who leaves a box full of second-hand books near the counter and leaves the store carrying two books in his hands. The store is full of books: you can fild all kinds and all genres. It looks like the book’s paradise as there might be no corner without books. This is TuuuLibrería, who offers a totally different and innovator project. “It is a space where the people that do not want their books, DVDs or CDs can bring them, and, on the other way, people that need or want those books, DVDs or CDs can take them with the limit of “as much as you can keep in your hand” (aroun 5–7), in exchange of an economical contribution decided by the user to guarantee the sustainability of the project”, explains us Sara González, the coordinator of the project. “Besides, it also wants to improve the cultural offer of the different neighbourhoods so we cede the space for cultural activities such as exhibitions, roundtables, books’ presentations, workshops…”.

The project came up in 2012, with its first center in Chamberí, Madrid. It is based on the model of The Book Thing, in Baltimore, USA. Alejandro de León, founder of TuuuLibrería, seeing that there was nothing similar to this project in Spain, decided to bring here this new model. Now they have opened two stores in Madrid and one in Barcelona. They work through volunteers and donations from the public, as books do not have a concrete price.

“TuuuLibrería has not fit, since its beginning, in the traditional sector of bookshops. In TuuuLibrería, the books, DVDs and CDs do not have a price, the users are the ones who decide how much to pay for them”, tells us González. It could be said that it raises as a protest to the delicate situation of the cultural sector nowadays. “With projects like TuuuLibrería it has been proved that it is not that society do not want to read, as when access to culture is facilitated citizenship answers positively. Because of that, until the situation does not change, we have to carry on fostering initiatives that continue strengthening the education in our country, despite the difficulties”.

TuuuLibrería in Chamberí

In this last case, it is a young guy who enters to the store. He has curly hair, medium height and an inquisitive and funny glance. He takes a sit near the microphone. No, tonight there is not a concert. There is a poetry recital. Vergüenza Ajena, the last center on which we will talk on this article, could be defined as a bookshop-coffee-gallery. All together. This small establishment near Moncloa, offers its clients a mix between poetry recitals, at the same time that they can enjoy an art exhibition, while they have a beer or eat something.

Vergüenza Ajena is another of the many bookshops that have joined this reinvention of the concept of library, facing a crisis, not just economical but also of the paper book. Because the physical book loses its protagonism with the apparition of new options, but the demands for the meeting points, activities, recitals… do not disappear. These are many the bookshops that have joined both concepts, creating also communities around them and making even more attractive the book and the literature.

“I think this is a continuation, because bookshops have always been a place where you could go and where you had the bookseller, which was your friend, and you talked with him, you asked him and he gave you advice. So this is like a progress, you have here your booksellers but also can sit down to take a coffee, take a look to the books… It is like a natural evolution of the concept of bookshop”, states Clea Moreno, from La Fugitiva. Bookshops now are not the same as they used, they have had to change their offer due to a change also in the demand. There has been an evolution of the bookshop which had the monopoly of the book and was the only way to access to them, to the actual bookshop that loses in a way this monopoly and has to offer new and different services, develop and change. Arrebato Libros “think that the library will continue specialising and trying to offer those things that are not the usual to see. So trying to be a meeting point for all those artists and publishers that want to show their work”.

By Marta Pereira de la Infanta