Libraries, from Tuesday reopening random


Twelve o'clock, 11 April 2020 – 11: 52

Laterza: «Recognized our role of service». Small and independent bookstores, such as Dickens in Taranto, and historical ones such as Palmieri in Lecce are ready to reopen. Some problems for megastores: Feltrinelli is considering what to do

by Francesco Mazzotta

The crackdown does not come loose. Except for bookstores and stationery stores. The lockdown continues until May 3, with very few exceptions. The health emergency continues to keep Italy in check. But there is a small elite to breathe a sigh of relief. This includes readers and their most direct suppliers, booksellers, who will finally be able to reopen their activities from Tuesday. The Bari publisher Alessandro Laterza hails the choice “positively”, as “a first step towards normalization”. But a healthy realism requires not to be exalted. For Laterza we cannot speak of an occasion for “a re-flowering of the activity”. For the moment it is a question of limiting the damage, already now to be estimated at ten negative points on an annual basis. Among other things, the publishing market and bookstores (especially independent ones) have been in difficulty for some time. A crisis that started with the financial shock of 2008 – 2009. Since then many have closed, even in Puglia. And the lockout for the coronavirus dealt another heavy blow.

A shy sign of normalization

Starting on Tuesday. “But it is unthinkable – adds Laterza – that in April we will have masses of people walking who can decide to go to the library”. For the sector, however, the government's decision is important because it “reaffirms the service role” of the reading operators. For which it is time to believe it, given that the main online competitor, Amazon, “has reduced the service of trade in paper books”. In this period, the Bari publisher explains, “the demand for university books has not been indifferent, but also fiction and non-fiction books with some attention to the few titles that have come out that speak about issues related to contagion”. There are, however, still many uncertainties about school books, “because it is not known yet whether new adoptions will be allowed and how the school will reopen”.

The Dickens case

Many bookstores in Puglia that, waiting to reopen, have joined the national “Take away books” project, including the Laterza of Bari. The same service has been proposed by Dickens of Taranto, which has carried out home delivery suggesting even two-three headlines per day on the Facebook page. «We left quietly, then I made an average of ten daily deliveries», says the owner, Tonino De Giorgi, who in the closing weeks had to count losses around 70%. For the reopening on Tuesday he says he is ready. “At least it won't be difficult for me to enforce social distancing,” he jokes, stressing the one-to-one relationship with readers of an independent bookstore. The news of this month are all skipped. The best-selling book by Dickens was Spillover , the bestseller on the evolution of pandemics by David Quammen , followed by The dream of the chrysalis , novel about the change by Vanessa Montfort, and L'architettrice by Melania Mazzucco.

The affection of Palmieri's historical readers

No home delivery, however, for the historic Palmieri bookshop in Lecce, which preferred to completely suspend the activity. And without fear of losing customers. “Many have written and contacted us over the past few weeks, reassuring us that they would wait for our reopening,” says Daniela Palmieri, today at the helm of the family bookstore which has been a reference point for readers in Lecce for fifty years. “If they put us in a position to respect the rules and guarantee our health and that of our customers – he says – we will reopen on Tuesday”.

Feltrinelli in meeting

Some problems, however, for the big chains, which were blown away by the government's decision. Last night the national leaders of Feltrinelli held a meeting to understand how and when to reopen. One account is the management of a small bookshop, another is the spaces of a store like the Feltrinelli in Bari, where it is more difficult to manage the problems related to social distancing and other anti-contagion provisions. More will be known in the next few hours.

11 April 2020 | 11: 52