These days, the Catalan media had this piece of news: “Catalònia”, an 88-year-old bookstore in Barcelona, will close on January 30. After renovations, the locale will open again this summer transformed into a McDonald’s restaurant. Looking at the statistics since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, according to the bookseller’s association one does not see a downturn in the number of bookstores but a 20% slip in the benefits they are registering.
The founders of “Catalònia”, Manuel Borràs de Quadras, Antoni López Llausàs, and Josep Maria Cruzet, had been inspired by the Paris bookstores of the 1920s that were not merely places that sold books but meeting points for culture. Thus, their bookstore became also a publishing house, a printing press, a kiosk, and a place for book presentations and exhibitions. “Catalònia” published Pompeu Fabra‘s dictionary, Rovira i Virgili‘s Història de Catalunya, and the first books by Josep Pla and Josep Maria de Sagarra. After moving to their current place at Ronda de Sant Pere in 1931, they organized colloquia by Lorca, Baroja, Andreu Nin or Eugeni d’Ors.
During the Franco regime, the bookstore’s name had to be changed to “La Casa del Libro” [The Book’s House], but its owners promoted Catalan cultural events such as the celebration of Sant Jordi’s day [Saint George’s, April 23] and “Santa Lucia’s night”. With democracy the bookstore recuperated its traditional name, and it survived a devastating fire in 1979 and temporary ownership by Bertelsmann. But 2008 was its last year with benefits.
According to sector sources, the problem is not e.g. the e-book as such, but a general decline in book (and culture) consumption in general. It costs more efforts to gain the public’s attention as in the past.
This development has led to new types of bookstores, such as “La Extra Vagante” in Sevilla that reopened with the help of 18 “micro-patrons” that invested into a project that shuns bestsellers and concentrates instead on independent and alternative publishers. Another example is “Los Oficios Terrestres” [The wordly trades, title of a story by Rodolfo Walsh], Mallorca, that functions as a hair dresser’s cum bookstore.
[The basic information of this post is taken from an article by Xavi Ayén entitled “Ronda Sant Pere, número 3”, published in La Vanguardia newspaper on January 9, 2013, page 37.]