The independent English-language Village Voice book shop in Paris will close at the end of July. Founder and owner Odile Hellier kept her shelves stocked with the best that publishers produced for three decades; running literary events over the years with authors such as Raymond Carver, Edmund White, Don DeLillo, Mavis Gallant, or David Sedaris. Moreover Hellier succeeded in creating a veritable community of book lovers.
But the deregulation of book prices in the Anglo-Saxon publishing world, the rise of Amazon, and more recently the advent of e-books, took a terrible financial toll on the bookshop and had Hellier battling for years. Two years ago Hellier began speaking to a number of people, trying to find a financial solution – without success.
“It’s a difficult enough decision to manage, but I realize we are something like an imaginary reference point inscribed in their mental map,” Hellier said. “Because things change so rapidly today, something that has been around for 30 years seems like it will be there forever.”
At a recent farewell party at the bookshop, customers, many of whom are Paris-based writers, editors and publishers, packed into the two floors of the bookshop and spilled into the street. People made speeches and gave gifts, but as a sign of the times, one author who has participated in literary events at the bookstore was overheard saying to friends that they should look for his latest book “on Amazon.”
Although independent bookshops in France are faring much better than in other countries, The Village Voice as an English-language bookshop could not benefit from the subsidies pumped into the French book business by the state and publishers.
“The writing was really on the wall,” said Hellier. “We have been observing the reality of the Anglophone book business with the discounting, the online digital revolution and the social status of the Apple products which are all part of a societal revolution. It’s a miracle we lasted this long, but ten years ago people weren’t yet global consumers.”