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French Government Plans Bookstore Bailout

So it seems France, thanks to their Culture Minister, is taking some very deliberate steps to ensure the “digital age in publishing” doesn’t completely wipe out their physical bookstores.

New budget allowances are making funds available for loans, which will be offered to both independent and chain stores. There are also plans to mandate mediators for use in settling disputes, in an attempt to avoid costly legal fees.

So far the reactions are positive, some in the industry choosing to remain cautiously optimistic, while others, like bookstore owners, are extremely excited over the news. Publishers on the other hand are taking a different look at it, mainly due to the mediation proposal, but rumor is they’d never speak against the bailout.

But no matter where the different parties stand on the details– it’s evident they all agree on one thing – they don’t want to see a repeat of what’s happened in the U.S. to Boarders and a number of independents.

Personally I think this is fantastic. It’s extremely unfortunate that our government doesn’t have a cultural ministry to focus on these kinds of issues – to really assess the impact a loss of bookstores and access to print books could potentially have on society.

While the popularity of digital books is continually rising, the majority of people still don’t have access to iPads and Kindles, and if they’re residing in a more rural part of the country, the loss of their only bookstore would have a dramatic impact. And not to get too sappy here, especially since I don’t have children of my own, but my heart goes out to parents who may not get to experience the joy of taking their child to a bookstore to pick out that very special story. Bookstores are wonderful places to create memories and indulge the imagination.

However, when it comes to feasibility (with or without a cultural ministry) I can’t not acknowledge that the U.S. has already taken heat over government bailouts, including those for the airline and automotive industries, when at the very least they can justify the investment for the number of jobs both industries provide, in addition to the fact that they support our shipping and transit needs. In comparison, as important as I like to think my work is to some people, the jobs and productivity value of the bookselling and publishing industries are minimal in comparison.

So the question is, if the government isn’t a realistic option for saving our bookstores, what will? I hate to say it, but for many communities I see the local bookstore becoming a thing of the past sooner than later. Sure, people will feel bad once they’re gone, but the glow of their Kindles is just distracting enough for the time being.

How would you feel about losing your local bookstores? And would it really impact your life at all?