When capitalism kills culture: Gentrified real estate puts squeeze on indie bookstores



Independent bookstores are places where culture is collected and disseminated. The gentrification of city centres makes their existence increasingly precarious.
Kévin Langlais on Unsplash, CC BY-NC

Julien Lefort-Favreau, Queen’s University, Ontario

The story is all too familiar – yet it should command more attention from Canadians.

Recently, the Globe and Mail reported the Ben McNally bookstore, located on Bay Street a stone’s throw from Union Station, would close in 2020. Two days later, Rupert McNally, the founder’s son, confirmed the news on the store’s website. It had been open since 2007.

The reason for the closure is simple: the store will be replaced by an alleyway linking Bay Street to the alley behind it. This redevelopment is part of a project that the owner calls (ironically?) “The Bay Street Village.”

It is therefore a stupid example of gentrification that pits a modest shopkeeper against a greedy landowner.

The increase in the value of Toronto’s real estate is not exactly new. But we can see here an example of a paradigm that is not reassuring for the future of large cities: the profitability of businesses devoted to cultural property is hardly compatible with the overbidding in real estate.

Montréal is facing the same problem, and it affects all independent businesses. In August, the City gave the Commission on Economic and Urban Development and Housing the mandate to conduct public consultations on vacant space on commercial arteries. Several of these areas have rates ranging from 10 to 15 per cent.

A “hygienization” of urban centres

It has already been demonstrated that gentrification is largely based on a city’s ability to offer an interesting and diversified cultural life. Some, such as Richard Florida, have linked this phenomenon to the emergence of a “creative class.”

Geographer Oli Mould, in his excellent book, Against Creativity, published in 2018, attacks the very notion of creativity. He criticizes Richard Florida with virulence by brilliantly showing how “creative” gentrification can also act as a form of hygienization in urban centres that, ironically, hinders spontaneous citizen initiatives. To put it bluntly, once gentrification is completed, culture is more or less eliminated from the central districts.

An Amazon bookseller opened its doors last February in New York. Will only multinationals or large chains be able to have a presence in city centres in the future?
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

We are interested in the case of the closure of the Ben McNally bookstore because it shows the consequences of real estate speculation on the vitality of a city and, ultimately, on culture on a national scale. Very quickly, after the announcement by the owners of the bookstore, many players in the Canadian publishing ecosystem expressed serious concerns.

That is because independent bookshops, Ben McNally in particular, do not belong to a large group or chain and aren’t limited to the sole function of selling books. They are truly a place of cultural mediation.

The purpose of booksellers is to introduce readers to more complex works that have received less media attention. In Kingston, Ont., the city where I live, the Novel Idea bookstore is part of the community life. It organizes meetings with local authors and federates a community of readers. In Montréal, bookstores such as Le port de tête, L’Écume des jours and Gallimard also have a clearly established cultural function.

Independent bookstores are places where demanding literature or radical essays can find readers. In short, the exact opposite of a virtual library where algorithms – certainly effective – guide readers’ tastes. There is no doubt that these algorithms favour books that are already selling well, regardless of the careful work of smaller publishers.

For a “bibliodiversity”

Why defend the independence of Canadian literature? Out of pure nationalism? Not exactly.

Rather, it is a question of how the bookstore can, in an era of advanced globalization, be a place of defence for the diversity of cultures, what some have referred to as bibliodiversity: a diversity of languages (in the case of Canada, English, French and Aboriginal literatures), but also socially equitable modes of production and dissemination. In this case, it ensures that cultural property produced with our public funds finds takers.

To put it simply, a book in Canada will sometimes be subsidized at the time of writing through creation grants, in its production through operating grants to publishers, and then sold by Amazon or, in the worst case, unsold due to a lack of suitable distribution locations. The Canadian book system provides a relatively good framework for its authors and publishers to deal with the horrors of the free market, in a spirit of cultural and economic protectionism. But in the current configuration, booksellers seem to be abandoned.

Make the less visible visible

But it is not simply a matter of defending a blurred Canadian identity. It is also a matter of making a diversity of identities visible. Think of the Racines bookstore in Montréal North, which highlights the culture and history of racialized authors. Or, the bookstore L’Euguélionne, which, by settling in the gay village in Montréal and adopting a cooperative structure, has made it its mission to offer a wide selection of literature on women and LGBPT2QIA groups.

An independent bookstore is therefore a meeting place for people from the neighbourhood but also, possibly, for affinity groups. Bookstores can be, in some contexts, sources of resistance. André Schiffrin states in L’argent et les mots – the third volume of a trilogy essential to understanding the effects of cultural globalization – that the number of New York bookstores has been divided by 10 since the post-war period.

Capitalism has its own rhythm, but also its own specific geography. Urban space is profoundly transformed by financial capitalism. Urban spaces are becoming expensive, and the closure of cultural spaces is, metaphorically and by extension, a reduction in the space for ideas and expression.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]The Conversation

Julien Lefort-Favreau, Assistant Professor, French Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

When capitalism kills culture: Gentrified real estate puts squeeze on indie bookstores



Independent bookstores are places where culture is collected and disseminated. The gentrification of city centres makes their existence increasingly precarious.
Kévin Langlais on Unsplash, CC BY-NC

Julien Lefort-Favreau, Queen’s University, Ontario

The story is all too familiar – yet it should command more attention from Canadians.

Recently, the Globe and Mail reported the Ben McNally bookstore, located on Bay Street a stone’s throw from Union Station, would close in 2020. Two days later, Rupert McNally, the founder’s son, confirmed the news on the store’s website. It had been open since 2007.

The reason for the closure is simple: the store will be replaced by an alleyway linking Bay Street to the alley behind it. This redevelopment is part of a project that the owner calls (ironically?) “The Bay Street Village.”

It is therefore a stupid example of gentrification that pits a modest shopkeeper against a greedy landowner.

The increase in the value of Toronto’s real estate is not exactly new. But we can see here an example of a paradigm that is not reassuring for the future of large cities: the profitability of businesses devoted to cultural property is hardly compatible with the overbidding in real estate.

Montréal is facing the same problem, and it affects all independent businesses. In August, the City gave the Commission on Economic and Urban Development and Housing the mandate to conduct public consultations on vacant space on commercial arteries. Several of these areas have rates ranging from 10 to 15 per cent.

A “hygienization” of urban centres

It has already been demonstrated that gentrification is largely based on a city’s ability to offer an interesting and diversified cultural life. Some, such as Richard Florida, have linked this phenomenon to the emergence of a “creative class.”

Geographer Oli Mould, in his excellent book, Against Creativity, published in 2018, attacks the very notion of creativity. He criticizes Richard Florida with virulence by brilliantly showing how “creative” gentrification can also act as a form of hygienization in urban centres that, ironically, hinders spontaneous citizen initiatives. To put it bluntly, once gentrification is completed, culture is more or less eliminated from the central districts.

An Amazon bookseller opened its doors last February in New York. Will only multinationals or large chains be able to have a presence in city centres in the future?
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

We are interested in the case of the closure of the Ben McNally bookstore because it shows the consequences of real estate speculation on the vitality of a city and, ultimately, on culture on a national scale. Very quickly, after the announcement by the owners of the bookstore, many players in the Canadian publishing ecosystem expressed serious concerns.

That is because independent bookshops, Ben McNally in particular, do not belong to a large group or chain and aren’t limited to the sole function of selling books. They are truly a place of cultural mediation.

The purpose of booksellers is to introduce readers to more complex works that have received less media attention. In Kingston, Ont., the city where I live, the Novel Idea bookstore is part of the community life. It organizes meetings with local authors and federates a community of readers. In Montréal, bookstores such as Le port de tête, L’Écume des jours and Gallimard also have a clearly established cultural function.

Independent bookstores are places where demanding literature or radical essays can find readers. In short, the exact opposite of a virtual library where algorithms – certainly effective – guide readers’ tastes. There is no doubt that these algorithms favour books that are already selling well, regardless of the careful work of smaller publishers.

For a “bibliodiversity”

Why defend the independence of Canadian literature? Out of pure nationalism? Not exactly.

Rather, it is a question of how the bookstore can, in an era of advanced globalization, be a place of defence for the diversity of cultures, what some have referred to as bibliodiversity: a diversity of languages (in the case of Canada, English, French and Aboriginal literatures), but also socially equitable modes of production and dissemination. In this case, it ensures that cultural property produced with our public funds finds takers.

To put it simply, a book in Canada will sometimes be subsidized at the time of writing through creation grants, in its production through operating grants to publishers, and then sold by Amazon or, in the worst case, unsold due to a lack of suitable distribution locations. The Canadian book system provides a relatively good framework for its authors and publishers to deal with the horrors of the free market, in a spirit of cultural and economic protectionism. But in the current configuration, booksellers seem to be abandoned.

Make the less visible visible

But it is not simply a matter of defending a blurred Canadian identity. It is also a matter of making a diversity of identities visible. Think of the Racines bookstore in Montréal North, which highlights the culture and history of racialized authors. Or, the bookstore L’Euguélionne, which, by settling in the gay village in Montréal and adopting a cooperative structure, has made it its mission to offer a wide selection of literature on women and LGBPT2QIA groups.

An independent bookstore is therefore a meeting place for people from the neighbourhood but also, possibly, for affinity groups. Bookstores can be, in some contexts, sources of resistance. André Schiffrin states in L’argent et les mots – the third volume of a trilogy essential to understanding the effects of cultural globalization – that the number of New York bookstores has been divided by 10 since the post-war period.

Capitalism has its own rhythm, but also its own specific geography. Urban space is profoundly transformed by financial capitalism. Urban spaces are becoming expensive, and the closure of cultural spaces is, metaphorically and by extension, a reduction in the space for ideas and expression.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]The Conversation

Julien Lefort-Favreau, Assistant Professor, French Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Terrible Things Happen in Bookshops


The link below is to an article that takes a look at some gross things found in bookshops (and yes, some are truly disgusting).

For more visit:
https://bookriot.com/2019/02/21/grossiest-things-at-a-bookstore/

Ebook Lending & Bookshops


The link below is to an article that looks at ebook lending and bookshops – does ebook lending impact on book sales?

For more visit:
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/06/ebook-lending-wont-put-big-dent-book-sales

World's favourite bookstores ranking shows enduring market


Paul X. McCarthy, UNSW Australia

In a business environment that has seen industries decimated by the rise of digital, one sector showing resilience is that of books.

“Books are not like recorded music,” says Shaun Symonds, general manager of Nielsen Bookscan.

If anything, the total global market for books is growing, as confirmed in research by PwC and others:

Total Market for Global Books Continues to Grow PwC
Global entertainment and media outlook 2015–2019, PwC, Ovum

If you adjust for the effects of the closure of major book chains such as Borders there is in fact only one or two years of decline in sales volume over the last decade in most major markets. Every other year including the most recent year’s figures reflect a modest year-on-year growth in total books (including eBooks) sold on the year before.

That’s not to say there’s not been significant disruption and consolidation in the industry. A large part of the highest-value highest-margin segments of the business such as hardback fiction are steadily migrating to eBook and online fulfilment. And of course the rise of online pure-play booksellers such as Amazon, Flipcart and The Book Depository has meant a new level of global competition for local independent bookstores and chains alike.

The migration to eBooks has meant the total dollar value of books sold has declined but the profitibility of some publishers has actually increased as they’ve removed a lot of their printing, wharehousing and distribution costs. A growing source of the industries profits are from eBooks at analysis by Bain shows.

Growing share of profits from eBooks
Publishing in the Digital Era, Bain 2011.

On the retail front while some bookshops have not managed to survive this last decade, many have held on. And some are thriving and flourishing – delighting their customers in ways only they know how. And being remembered for it.

The long-established Shakespeare & Company featured in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris.
Tamara Craiu/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

In an economy increasingly governed by attention, the need for companies and retailers to have their brands recognised and remembered has never been greater. Being forgotten is one of the greatest clear and present dangers in the global, web-connected and digital economy.

Using web data it’s possible to measure the collective visibility of today’s leading bookstores from around the world.

Towards a global Top 40

Novelist & co-creator of kids TV series Hi-5 Posie Graeme-Evans recently wrote about her Top 10 Favourite Bookstores.

What if you could find out who everyone’s favourite bookstores were, around the world? And what if this list included all the legendary independent stores like Shakespeare and Company in Paris, as well as online bookstores like Amazon and bookstore chains like Waterstones, Barnes & Nobles and Dymocks. Using large scale data collections from the web, I set about doing this.

The Top 40 Bookstores list is based on how many people think about these stores and how often.

Perhaps not surprisingly online stores lead the list with Amazon.com followed by the online goliath Flipkart of India just ahead of the world’s largest bookstore chain Barnes & Noble. France’s giant cultural and electronics retailing chain Fnac is fourth with the UK’s largest bookstore chain Waterstones rounding out the top five.

What may come as a surprise is leading independent single stores or small chains including Shakespeare and Company (Paris); Powells (Portland) and City Lights (San Francisco) all feature in the top 20.

Here is the list in full:

World’s Top Bookstores 2015
 
# Bookstore Twitter HQ Country
1 Amazon.com @amazonbooks US
2     Flipkart @Flipkart India
3 Barnes & Noble @BNBuzz US
4 Fnac @Fnac France
5 Waterstones @waterstones UK
6 The Book Depository @bookdepository UK
7 AbeBooks @AbeBooks Canada
8 Shakespeare and Company @Shakespeare_Co France
9 Books-A-Million @booksamillion US
10 Hay-on-Wye @Hay_On_WyeBooks   UK
11 WHSmith @WHSmith UK
12 Infibeam @infibeam India
13 Chapters Indigo @chaptersindigo Canada
14 Powell’s Books @Powells US
15 City Lights Bookstore @CityLightsBooks US
16 Blackwell UK @blackwellbooks UK
17 National Book Store @nbsalert The Phillipines
18 Alibris @alibris US
19 Foyles @Foyles UK
20 Eslite Bookstore @eslite Taiwan
21 MPH Group @M_TWEETbyMPH Malaysia
22 Hudson Group @hudsonbooks US
23 Books Kinokuniya @Kinokuniya Japan
24 Fishpond @Fishpondcom NZ
25 Strand Bookstore @strandbookstore US
26 Hastings Entertainment @goHastings US
27 Half Price Books @halfpricebooks US
28 Popular Holdings #popularworld Singapore
29 Livraria Cultura @livcultura Brazil
30 Higginbotham’s #higginbothams India
31 Landmark Bookstores @landmarkstores India
32 Hatchards @Hatchards UK
33 Fopp @foppofficial UK
34 Dymocks Booksellers @dymocksbooks Australia
35 Harvard/MIT Cooperative Society   @harvardcoop US
36 Eason & Son @easons Ireland
37 NewsLink #newslink Australia
38 Archambault @archambaultCA Canada
39 Kyobo Book Centre @withKyoboBook Korea
40 Hodges Figgis @Hodges_Figgis Ireland
 
Ranked by Bookstore Mind Share 1.01; Paul X McCarthy, June 2015.

The methodology

To create the Top 40 I created a “Bookstore Mind Share” (BMS index) derived from web data such as global visits to each bookseller’s Wikipedia page. This approach is a proxy for popularity or notoriety. I then standardised the results to allow comparisons across categories and across the world. As the BMS is based on the English-language web it is mainly representative of English-language countries and English-language bookstores but interestingly still includes bookstores in Korea and Brazil.

By using a standard measures across global web platforms like Wikipedia traffic data, Google Books N-Gram and Google search term frequency you can create interesting and fascinating comparisons that span across time and geography.

Another example of this type of web data use is the MIT Media Lab’s Pantheon project where you can browse rankings of many people across history from ancient times to today including:

This is an experimental data project and I would encourage readers to comment or make suggestions for improvements or additions.

The Conversation

Paul X. McCarthy is Adjunct Professor at UNSW Australia.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.