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.
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.
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.