March 4, 2015
Shakespeare & Company in Paris launches new website and will ship books worldwide
by Claire Kelley
Shakespeare & Company, the famous Paris bookstore, now has a new digital presence. The staff of the independent bookshop and antiquarian bookseller has not only redesigned their website, they’ve also introduced a place for news and updates called “Le Blog,” started a Tumblr called “Down the Rabbit Hole,” and created the capability to send physical books from Paris to customers worldwide.
In a post announcing the changes, bookshop owner Sylvia Whitman explains that she hopes “to bring a bit of the bookshop and Paris to you, wherever you might be.” She also explains that the new “e-shop” is meant to be an extension of the physical bookshop.
For us, having an online shop isn’t about trying to compete with the big internet companies or ignoring the existence of e-books. It’s about acknowledging the new consumer norms of convenience and efficiency, all while adventuring ever deeper into the Wonderland of what an independent bookstore can be.
The Shakespeare & Company “e-shop” experience allows visitors with an internet connection around the globe to browse books by genre, including a section called S&Co classics, which include the Paris shop’s bestsellers like Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties by Noel Riley Fitch, Ulysses by James Joyce, and Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Another way to browse is by the “bookshelves” feature — which shows lists of selections by topic from staff, friends of the bookshop, and tumbleweeds (travelers who stay in the shop in exchange for work). And if you’re interested in a rare book, you can find an “elegant and affordable” book, or maybe splurge on a “treasure,” like a first edition of Catcher in the Rye.
While Sylvia doesn’t promise rock-bottom prices (she explains that in France, booksellers benefit from a fixed-price agreement), she does promise a special package in the mail if you order a book.
In return for your online purchase, we’ll endeavor to give your books that certain je ne sais quoi. It could be with the bookstore’s official stamp, a vintage postcard of Paris we found in a second-hand book, or a pocket-sized poem typed by a Tumbleweed at the desk looking onto Notre-Dame. Each package will be carefully, beautifully boxed and shipped, sent like a message in a bottle to you or perhaps to a friend, a message of warmth and solidarity that wherever you may be, in whatever town or city, there’s always a home for readers and literary wanderers at Shakespeare and Company.
In addition to the e-shop, other parts of the website are new too. The events section lists all upcoming readings, group meetings, and storytimes, but also archives past events. All of the photos and author podcasts provide an amazing record of all of the authors who have visited the bookshop to give readings in recent years — including Jonathan Lethem, Eleanor Catton, and Ben Lerner — so that you can feel like you were in Paris for the event. There’s also a brief history of the shop with background on the founder George Whitman, and his inspiration, Sylvia Beach proprietor of the original Shakespeare & Company bookshop.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.