Álvaro Manso: «Bookstores are a mirror in which society is reflected»
On November 11, Bookstore Day will be celebrated once again this year with a cultural campaign, physical encounters with readers, and the promotion of reading.
We talked to Álvaro Manso, a representative for Cegal and bookseller at Luz y Vida (Burgos) about Bookstores Day.
What are the challenges facing bookstores in the coming years?
The challenges of bookstores come mainly from the concern for the promotion of reading, of society and its reading capacity when we are in a time of the technological explosion, but in which the paper book continues to demonstrate its full strength against the digital book, not to mention the greater cognitive benefits and at all levels. Above all, we like to talk about social challenges, linked to the environment and responsible consumption. Bookstores are a mirror in which society is reflected, we are adapting as rationally as possible to the times in which we live.
We have studied the program of the 2022 Bookstore Congress and we see a special interest in public policies: how can administrations improve their collaboration with books?
Administrations have a key role to play in this. We have just seen the example of France, where they have legislated to set a mandatory minimum price for book shipments and thus put an end to Amazon’s huge advantage over independent bookstores. Would something like this be unthinkable in Spain?
In our congresses, we always try to address specific problems and we are very concerned about the role of the different administrations. It is very important that the Reading Promotion Plan that has been promised is carried out; that it is transversal and in all areas (state, regional and local), and that public purchases, both from schools and public libraries, take into account local commerce.
«Bookstores are a mirror in which society is reflected».
todostuslibros.com is a pioneering platform in Europe, what has it implied for the bookstore sector?
It has been a very important experience. First, because it reaffirms the idea that we have found our model to be present in the digital market. It is a respectful model that does not seek to grow on someone else’s account, but rather by promoting collaboration and the role of each of the agents in the so-called book value chain. For some bookstores, it has meant a very interesting direct increase in their turnover. It is a strategic bet for us.
What happens to bookstores that don’t join todostuslibros.com? What is their disadvantage compared to those that do?
What is happening is that they are losing not only a sales opportunity, but also visibility. Todostuslibros sells online, but todostuslibros.com also geolocates and informs users where they can find the book they are looking for.
The platform is part of a global project, a system of shared data between small and medium-sized bookstores that, both in terms of exposure to the reader and internal work, is very interesting and useful. Being linked to Cegal en Red and Librired offers the small bookstore the same opportunity for information (knowing where titles are available and who to order them from) and also for exposure as a large bookstore.
«With Librired a small publisher can have the same control over its holdings and the market as a large group.»
Laslibreriasrecomiendan.com serves as a prescribing platform. What are its main keys?
As with CEGAL’s other tools, collaboration is essential in Las Librerías Recomiendan. More than 400 bookstores participate in this literary recommendation website, which publishes daily reviews, reports, interviews, lists of recommended books… The objective is to serve as a guide for the public that is looking for recommendations and that trusts the quality and experience criteria of the bookstores.
Librired has revolutionized information in the sector and has enabled independent publishers to better understand their market and their sales. What are the keys to this second phase of the project? What does this tool bring to a publisher?
The key is that with Librired a small publisher can have the same control over its funds and the market as a large group. In fact, all our tools are designed to match the information capacity of both bookstores and publishers.
At the moment, the tool has new functionalities for publishers, but also for our guilds and bookstores, even for authors. We are in a gradual and progressive process of implementation.
What have bookstores discovered in the last two years of the digital explosion?
As in any other field, there are many speeds and from CEGAL we have to be able to help those who are slower and have more difficulties. And that we are not going to give up any of the benefits of technology, although we are still very strong in human and daily contact.
Are there any new projects or tools in the pipeline for 2022-2023 that will facilitate cooperation between smaller publishers and bookstores?
If it were not for bookstores, bibliodiversity would not exist. We are the ones who take care of and bring to readers other types of more risky bets, from independent and micro-publishers. We have them very present in our daily work.
We have already talked about Librired, in the contents of all our tools we take care of this bibliodiversity and in the development of todostuslibros.com, there are specific aspects contemplated for them with the improvement of their metadata.
Looking ahead to the Christmas campaign, what does a bookstore have to do to survive this pandemic season? Which books should it display or which ones should it focus on in order to maintain its business? Which is not the same as maintaining a loyal customers.
Bookstores are living a good moment, we are receiving the affection and support of our readers and again they are returning to these nearby spaces. There is a greater commitment to neighborhoods and proximity businesses. And if we have learned anything in recent years is that the personality of each bookstore, the selection criteria, cultural promotion, and networking are essential to ensure the continuity of any bookstore project.