May 30, 2013
Browsing in Italian Bookstores
by Claire Kelley
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.
In Levanto, a seaside town just outside of Pisa, a bookstore advertises books in English in their front window.
A book and print market is held everyday inside the walls of Lucca, a city in Tuscany.
Inside the book stalls, a wide variety of used books are on display.
Offerings include books in English, and a bargain section where books cost only one euro.
While a branch of Libreria Edison closed in Florence at the end of last year, the Lucca branch is still open and doing a brisk business in the heart of the city with hours from 9AM to 12AM.
Here, books behind the counter are ranked by the store’s bestsellers.
Top sellers are discounted by 20 percent.
The interior of Libreria Edison in Lucca, located on Via Roma angolo via Cenami.
Ubik bookstores are located all over Italy.
In Italian bookstores, books are often organized by publisher or specific genre categories.
Adelphi Edizioni, a well-respected book publisher based in Milan, was represented with a large display of books by Georges Simenon.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.