(Mostly) Latin Quarter Bookstore Stroll

Independent bookshop subsidies? Oh yeah, I’ll drink to that.

During a stroll past bookshops and between wine bars stops in the Latin Quarter a few years ago, a colleague, a crusty reporter for a daily paper, told me that independent bookstores in that area of the French capital were subsidized by the local and national governments. I wondered how such an idea would go over in a place like Cleveland.

Some of the subsidies, he said, took the form of low interest loans. There were also tax breaks and incentives available, as well as cheap below-market rate rents in otherwise very pricey areas. Like the Left Bank’s Latin Quarter, still considered the city’s intellectual lifeline, where the goal of an independent government agency was to preserve book-related commerce and fend off the high end designer apparel shops that were encroaching the area. One thing Paris didn’t need, the argument apparently went, was more clothing boutiques in a neighborhood that witnessed nearly half of its independent bookstores disappear between 2000 and 2010. No not very Sorbonne-like.

I don’t know if austerity measures and Sarkozy era budget cuts have affected these subsidies in the time since –I hope not. But if another casual stroll through the same area last month is an indication, it appears they haven’t.

Stand along the Seine

There were dozens of shops, small and slightly less-small, tucked in and around the zigzag streets, with window displays showcasing titles as varied as the shapes of the worn cobblestones underfoot. That was the best part: discovering obscure books and little-known writers whose only appearance in a shop window –ever– will most certainly be somewhere in this corner of Paris.

I have some doubts that this model will ‘save’ the independents from other book buying and selling trends –online sales made up around 7% of book sales in France in recent years– but it’s certainly saved the parts of the Left Bank that are home to the shops from looking like other parts of the world that are starting to look far too much alike.

Most of the shots here were taken in the Latin Quarter. The few taken in the stands along the banks of the Seine are the lone exceptions.

Good indy bookstore karma near the Sorbonne.
With Lenin on the Seine. In this case, the right bank.
Slovenia’s hero Zizek is everywhere.
Shop windows – political passions welcome

Anyone read The End of Work?
What the mood of the day? Dada or Groucho?

Marilyn infatuation knows no boundaries

I bet you didn’t know that Dumas wrote a dictionary of cuisine.

***

These snaps are this week’s somewhat late contribution for Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday on twitter) hosted by Nancie on her website, Budget Travelers Sandbox. When you have few minutes to browse, check out Nancie’s photos and those of others who take part. You’ll see some great photos and visit some wonderful places.

  1. I love walking through the Latin Quarter and can rarely go past a bookstore without buying something. The internet buying rates for books sound low in France. I wonder what it is in the US and Canada. France is going to have to rein in the spending so you’re right – those subsidies may be a thing of the past quite soon.

    1. They do assist with preserving jobs and creating job, so I think they’ll be around a while. I’m just not sure if they’ll ultimately help against the larger issues dealing with the publishing industry these days. But I’m very glad they’re trying. 🙂

  2. I also photographed a bunch of bookstores in the Latin Quarter/St. Germaine neighborhoods. You did a lot more than I did. Thank you! Interesting to hear about the subsidies! I was fascinated by the degree of specialization in some bookstores. One devoted to antique children’s books. One to all things having to do with cars, etc.

  3. This is a wonderful homage to books, bookstores and the Latin Quarter. Your photos make me feel as if I’m there, looking through the window, trying to find a book for my collection. I rarely walk past a bookstore without going in.

  4. Thanks for taking us on a stroll through one of my favorite areas. We stayed in the St. Germaine neighborhood the last time and loved it. It was so great to walk around and still see these quaint stores.

    1. I hope so too. 🙂 I’m curious about the more long-term implications that don’t have so much to do with government policy but with the book-buying public’s general reading habits and the evolution of the publishing industry. Even very cheap subsidized rents and tax breaks won’t do enough to save these shops if people are buying fewer books.

  5. It’s wonderful to hear about the subsidies, and that they appear to be continuing, despite the stringencies of our current economic plight. I suppose they were first proposed as a means of saving the flavour of the Latin Quarter, to keep it relevant, to some extent, as a distinct tourist destination in its own right. The other thing that is so interesting is that the preservation of the language, and culture of France is such an important issue – one which governments have supported, politically and financially, for generations. Given the almost niche-like French publishing market, perhaps they will be spared the blanket mass-market operations we have experienced in English-speaking publishing?

    1. As I understand it, these are earmarked specifically for bookstores in the quarter to keep it relevant as you say, specifically as a ‘knowledge destination’. That said I couldn’t help but notice how empty they all were. Chain stores I walked by were not.

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