April 26, 2017
Love books? Celebrate this holiday about books and love!
by Ryan Harrington
What would it take to sell €2o million worth of books in a very short period? Perhaps a new Harry Potter book could do it. Or an incredible coup by some publisher’s genius-laced marketing department. Or maybe a major gift-giving holiday like… Valentine’s Day?
Well certainly not America’s Valentine’s Day, but, believe it or not, the Catalan equivalent, La Diada de Sant Jordi, can actually move that many units. As Natasha Lomas reports for TechCrunch, in the days before the April 23rd festival
every bookshop in the Catalan capital is packed with people, tables piled high with shiny paperbacks perpetually ringed by shoppers seeking the perfect literary gift. Stop for a moment to thumb through a title and you’ll invariably be jostled aside by the sheer force of foot traffic as book buyers criss-cross each others’ alphabetic desires.
Granted, April 23rd is also World Book Day — but allow for a little romance, won’t you? Besides, Catalonia has been experiencing a boom in book sales every April since long before UNESCO created its holiday for the global book trade (which happened, by the way, in 1995). Sant Jordi is about giving books. And the numbers reflect how seriously (book) lovers take the celebration. The day accounts for up to eight percent of booksellers’ business each year, and about 1.5 million copies are sold (using 2015 numbers).
Lomas paints a lovely Barcelona tableau:
On the day itself the streets fill up with even more people and color as book sellers and rose sellers man their tables and buckets, and couples walk hand in hand between. Rose stalls outnumber book stalls by about 4:1 even though petals aren’t always cheaper than paper. Many stalls are selling in aid of a local cause like a school trip or a charity such as Save the Children. In Plaça de Catalunya you might be lucky enough to stumble across a favorite writer signing copies of their latest book. Equally you can savor strolling through the calmer buzz of a local barrio turned out together into the streets. Sant Jordi is a celebration of how something that’s bound within can be displayed without, be it inside the pages of book or the unfurled beauty of a flower. It’s a celebration of the energy that goes into the process of creation, individually and collectively. It’s as much about emotion and sensation as it is about books and reading.
The event takes on the energy of a full-on book fair, with talks, signings, and live music. So while we’re sitting around guzzling wine next Valentine’s Day, let’s remember that the Catalan are having a much better time. And probably drinking better wine, too.
Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.