By Anastasia Linevich
May 21, 2020
MOSCOW – Today is Thursday, it means that the weekly online meeting for the staff and all comers of the “Giperion ” bookstore will start at 6 p.m, everyone is welcomed. And the topic of the day is best female authors of the last decade and it is planned right after the short session of sharing reading experiences and recommendations for the past weeks. This is how “Giperion”’s team have decided to handle the situation and help frequenters to stay in touch. “According to recent government orders, bookstores have stopped working. Which is very unfortunate, because books are a socially significant product, and people need them in this difficult time more than ever, so we found the way to support and entertain our loyal customers, to thank them for staying with us, ” says Petr Protsenko, the manager of the bookstore.
Despite this enthusiastic and praiseworthy approach, the bookstore sustains losses. The pandemic hit a small book selling business as it is surviving the digital oppression. The dynamic of life has changed, millennials prefer to consume books in more convenient digital format, so you don’t have to be riveted to the single book for hours, instead you listen to audiobooks driving, cooking or doing whatever allows you to listen to audiobooks or podcasts simultaneously. People prefer to sacrifice the pleasure of reading the printed book and drowning into its paper pages, on behalf of managing their time more wisely, in order to keep their productivity level high. “I prefer listening to audiobooks when I work or drive, because this is the only way to read for me, I also tend to fall asleep very fast reading in bed. So I find audiobooks the best option for my schedule,” says Marek Střalka, automotive designer for Volkswagen. And this is the way to consume literature for many young people, what makes the printed booksellers having hard times for the last decade. Contemporary bookshops nowadays have to be resourceful and proactive to keep the business going.
Sergey Onisipov, the man who keeps abreast with Moscow bookish life, as his job, literature columnist for “Novaya Gazeta” and novelist explains the importance of the atmosphere and infrastructure around the bookstores location to support the selling of printed books. “Most of the books stores are located next to cafes or they simply have a coffee corners inside, so people get used to buy a book and relax reading book while having a coffee. It has never been common for Russian people. And this new habit is not the least of the factors to help bookstores afloat,” says Lebedev. Many people appreciate the specific atmosphere of a bookstore to meet their friends just to talk and chill. Evidently, many cafes also use bookshelves as a part of interior that adds a touch of romanticism and dispose to relax.
Promotions and public events are also crucial for the bookstores around the city. Most of the stores regularly hold lectures by authors and autograph sessions, poetry evenings and quizzes nights. “It is also always good to come to learn about the latest news, to chat with people who are versed in literature, art or music and, of course, the atmosphere and the smell of freshly printed pages does its magic,” says Nadezda Yavorskaya, student of Moscow School of Architecture, who loves to spend windows between classes in the bookstore with the mug of coffee. Unobtrusive music plays in the store itself. Space is well organised and lighting pleasantly illuminates bookshelves. It is important to note that the roots of the volumes do not merge into a single canvas, which sows ripples in the eyes. Bookcases are divided into blocks that are convenient when searching for a particular work. Stands with popular books are not too big, but not small, which allows eyes not to run up and not to pile together when looking at all the splendour. These days bookshelves of the stores are covered with dust and books humbly waiting for their pages to be leafed over again.
Previously, it seemed that the book was forced to compete with the sharply increased flow of entertainment only for the amount of time that each of the potential consumers is ready to spend reading. In the context of the pandemic, it turned out that at the very moment when a person has time that he or she is ready to spend on reading, but in the current state even inveterate bookworms give preferences to digital version, just like all force of misfortune befall upon the small bookstores. Switching to the eshop takes time and while the crew is working on it, there are still managing issues. “We are in touch with our partners – suppliers and lessors. The vast majority of them relate to what is happening with understanding, even though their situation is critical as well. And as soon as the situation changes for the better, hopefully, we will be ready to continue working,” says Protsenko with enthusiasm. But first of all stores need to have the opportunity to work. Another month of quarantine can be fatal for most of the small bookshops in Moscow, as the quarantine cut the source of the main profit for them and its supportive elements.
It is already clear that when the pandemic ends, the book industry will have to exist in very harsh conditions. For how long it will have to recover from the economic shock is still impossible to predict – it depends on a variety of factors, and how this shift to asocial lifestyle influences the readers’ mind is crucial. But now it is possible to predict that in the form in which we have been able to observe its last ten years, it will no longer be – there will be something new.