May 30, 2013

Browsing in Italian Bookstores


Last year around this time, the New York Times happily announced that French bookstores are still thriving. The article suggested that the French value books as cultural objects, and that the writer is elevated and honored in French society—factors that have staved off the threat of ebooks and digital readers. And, as this blog has reported, France is willing to go to great lengths of government support and tax breaks to protect bookstores from undergoing the same fate as so many stores in the U.S.

On a recent trip to Italy, I wondered if something similar might be going on as I browsed through books in stores and in streets. As a column in the Guardian in 2008 suggests, Italians didn’t always buy books specifically from bookstores — they would more likely be mixed in with groceries or items at newsstands. But what I observed in and around Lucca, a walled city in Tuscany, is that bookstores are alive and well. In fact, I found that in Italy there’s a wide range of places available to buy books. While I didn’t visit a Feltrinelli bookstore (a ubiquitous chain that can be found all over Italy), I did discover some others, including Ubik and Libreria Edison, and I browsed through the daily book stalls within Lucca’s walls.


Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.