Friday, August 19, 2011

Bookstores, here and there

This vacation has me seeing bookstores all across the world, and I have to say that the experience is quite eye-opening. Bookstores may typically have the same books wherever you are, but they almost always have their own personalities... and that even includes some of the chains. It's lovely, seeing the various types of stores and the different content. But more interesting than that is seeing the different takes each country has regarding bookselling and books.

I noticed, for instance, that in Spain blurbs aren't printed on the books, but are reserved rather for slips of paper that are placed around the book. The reader can discard the slips if desired, but those who like blurbs can always keep it on. Waste of paper? Yes. Brilliant way to avoid stupid blurbs? Definitely.

Or in Quebec. As is my habit, I walked into the bookstore, expecting to find a standard chain bookstore. I was impressed (though unsurprised) to find the small Quebecois fiction section, specially printed by various local presses (or so I presumed). Not being able to read particularly good French, it was difficult to figure out what the printing habits of this province but I noticed that several of the fiction and thriller titles seemed to be printed in France. Does this mean that the books are imported? Doesn't this make book prices unreasonably high? Anyone living in Canada who can shed light on this matter... please. I'm quite curious.

And now back in the U.S., in Boston, just about everywhere I walk I find myself passing a bookstore. Sometimes it's a B&N, sometimes it's a going-out-of-business Borders, but more often than not it's an indie with its own style and its own personality. It's nice, walking the streets and seeing the bookstores. Added to the pleasure of a calm vacation and the lovely sites, this is truly a great feeling.


  1. I'm not from Quebec, but I moved a few years ago from the States to Nova Scotia, and I have to say that books in Canada are prohibitively expensive, period. I think it's because their prices are fixed by the publisher as if the Canadian dollar were weak against the American dollar, even though this isn't true anymore, but also because there isn't a strong internet market because of the high cost of Canada Post. I would be soothed if I thought this meant that the market was strong for independent bookstores, but I'm afraid the B&N equivalent (Chapters or Indigo) still dominates the market mot places. Sigh.

  2. In the Philippines, chain bookstores drove local indies out of business a long time ago, so I find the concept of "indie bookstores with personality" really interesting. There's even a chain of secondhand bookstores at the mall, but real "indie" bookstores are either really hard to find or nonexistent at all.

  3. I like the idea of putting the blurbs on separate pieces of paper, as sometimes I think the blurbs ruin an otherwise perfect cover. One of the reasons I long to travel is to get the chance to check out bookstores all over the world. It sounds like you are having a wonderful time!

  4. Hmmm ... I think I need to go to Boston and hunt out some of those indie bookstores! I've seen some of the ones in Cambridge, which were great, but I haven't explored Boston itself as much.


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