“Bookstores have the unique situation of being a destination for writers as well as readers. This means, if it's your local bookshop … you get to go and watch world-class writers read and talk. I imagine Amazon could fashion webcam readings, but even if a writer has won every prize going, they can't reach through their screen and into yours to sign a book for you,” says Rosa Rankin-Gee, author of “The Last Kings of Sark.”
Unlike America, which has just one organization that acts as a collective for independent bookstores (the American Booksellers Association), France has several organizations that act as important support systems (and watchdogs), whether it’s the Region Ile-de-France, which offers support for independent bookstores, or ADELC, the association that subsidizes bookstores (though this organization offers aid more in the form of zero-interest loans). But the source of the most important funding is the Centre National du Livre (CNL), which has a multimillion-euro budget to give out grants for bookstore development. And yes, there are even unions.
Just as the French prize good food and wine, they award special status to bookstores. In 2012, the CNL took their labeling obsession to bookstores by starting the Librairie Independante de Reference (Recommended Independent Bookstore) project, where bookstores can qualify for a LIR label, which indicates a high-quality bookstore. Among other advantages, if a bookstore wins the LIR label its owners can receive tax breaks from the government and special subsidies from the CNL, such as interest-free loans for store improvement or money to support events.
In addition to France’s 9 million-euro plan to support independent bookshops, CNL has also raised its direct grant budget from 4 million to 6 million euros a year.