Covid-19: French bookstores fight for survival after the coronavirus lockdown-art and culture

Neighbourhood bookshops in France have survived television and later the arrival of online shops. Then came the suspension of the coronavirus, an eight-week interruption that had a strong impact on profits and threatened the survival of some companies.

For the first time since the 17th century, bookshops in France opened on Mondays. The government opened in March, trying to strike a balance between the need to rebuild the collapsing economy and the risk of a further acceleration of the new coronavirus.

In the bookstore HERE in the 2. In the Paris neighbourhood, wearing a mask is compulsory and hand disinfectant is immediately available at the front door and inside, so that customers can pick up any striking book and browse through it.

You’re careful not to touch the books too much. And we tell them that if they touch books, they are allowed to do so, but they have to use gel (disinfectant) every time, said co-founder Anna-Laure Vial.

12 Bouetard’s employees resumed work following a temporary redundancy and the company applied for two loans to cover its overheads.

France is a paradise for bibliophiles. There are large boutique chains, but independent bookshops are omnipresent in the Paris neighbourhood.

Bookseller Philippe Seyrat, who wears a face mask, organises books in the Sorbonne bookshop in Nice, while France was hit by the coronavirus epidemic (KOVID-19) on 13 December. In May 2020, the strict blocking rules will be relaxed. REUTERS/ERIC Gaillard

Inside, the hustle and bustle of the French capital slows down to a peaceful pace as visitors look through the racks.


France has fervently defended its cultural life and institutions for decades. The French concept of cultural exception means more than cultural exclusivity – it refers to the conviction that national culture must be protected from the free operation of the market.

Grants, quotas, income support and tax exemptions contribute to the promotion of French music, film and literature. It also has a law that prevents price cuts in bookstores to protect writers.

However, the boundaries are narrow.

The problem is that we don’t receive enough orders to cover our costs, according to Vial, who is worried about the slow recovery. We’ll have to hold out for months. It’s not certain.

The government is aware of the dangers they and others run.

They have very low margins, very low profits, so they may have difficulty finding funding to repay their loans, said Finance Minister Bruno Le Mayor during a visit to another bookstore last week. We could have a chain of failing bookstores. This is exactly what we want to avoid.

Six-year-old Marcel di Nicola browsed through the ICI comic bookshelves among the 60,000 items for sale.

According to his mother Florence, the blockade is a rare opportunity to concentrate on reading.

We’re not leaving him alone in front of the television. So when the homework is done, we have to find something else for him to do himself, she says.

(This story was published by a telegraphic agency without the text being changed. Only the title has been changed).

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