The bookstore from the inside: El libro imposible
«It seemed to us a good opportunity to invest in culture in a Spain that is depopulating and affected by industrial changes».
In Publishnews we continue in our efforts to introduce our readers to different bookstores that can be found in Spain. On this occasion, we have gone to Ponferrada to discover a little more about El libro imposible, a bookstore that has begun to take its first steps with a clear objective: to extend the concept of a bookstore.
Why is El libro imposible not just a bookstore?
El libro imposible is a creative and cultural space of Prodigioso Volcán in Ponferrada. It houses several projects: a bookstore managed by Cervantes y Compañía from Madrid, the offices of Prodigioso Volcán in Ponferrada, a local company called PV-31, work teams with designers, journalists, and consultants, and it is also a space to promote activities and workshops.
How did the idea come about? Why in Ponferrada?
It seemed to us a good opportunity to invest in the culture in Spain that is being depopulated by industrial change. Ponferrada in particular is going through difficult times since the disappearance of coal mining and, consequently the lack of employment for its inhabitants and the loss of economic power have generated a certain atmosphere of pessimism in the region. In addition, the Bierzo region is isolated from the new high-speed train lines that go to Galicia from Madrid and other areas. It is therefore a commitment to revitalize the cultural scene of Ponferrada and the entire region, located in the historic center of the city and on the Camino de Santiago. A space/bookstore with cultural events and activities is always a good activator for the public.
What part of the essence of Prodigioso Volcán does this space have?
In the «back room» of the bookstore we will combine events with a work and digital content production area. With the flexible teleworking model implemented in the company since 2021, we have several profiles that work from Bierzo and this has allowed us to develop this local project. This space is separated from the bookstore only by some curtains. The confluence of activities in the same place gives us the opportunity to Prodigioso Volcán to learn B2C sales mechanisms specific to the bookstore. The bookstore can also absorb knowledge from these teams and implement more digital ways of working. And we are confident that all of this can result in better ideas for our customers. It is a living laboratory that will allow us to experiment with another type of business, traditional sales. It is also a modern type of bookstore, like Prodigioso Volcán, where you don’t have to go to the counter to ask for a copy, but you can wander around, stop, read, browse, and find it, or you can ask our bookseller for expert advice.
As a place that hosts cultural activities, what are the most popular ones?
Book presentations, both by local and national authors, have attracted a lot of interest in the months we have been open. Children’s activities such as storytelling, the reading club that meets monthly and the literary vermouths that we have held on some Saturdays have also been successful. A different one that we are going to expand is the training workshops for professionals in the area of what is known as «soft skills» such as creativity, communication, or new business models. The reception has been very positive and we are very happy.
The Cervantes y Compañía bookstore has a point of sale in ‘El libro imposible‘. What are the best-selling titles?
In general, books related to the events we hold in the space tend to be successful: the book club or the presentations. Also, those related to the Bierzo region or with authors from the area, such as El viaje de Egeria or Facendera, are among our top sellers. And of course, the books that have stood out this year such as Agua y Jabón by Marta D. Riezu, Los Armarios Vacíos by Annie Ernaux, or Todo Arde by Juan Gómez Jurado. And second-hand books also top the list, as we dedicate a space for them inside the bookstore and a bookcrossing drawer outside.
What other books can we buy in this space?
We have several sections that we love and that shows the differential character of the bookstore. On the one hand, books on local themes, by local authors, on the Camino de Santiago or the Templars and the castle. They are in great demand both among the local public and by tourists and pilgrims who pass through our bookstore every day. And, on the other hand, two sections in which you can find ‘books about books’ and ‘jewel books’ or ‘impossible’.
With all the stimuli that we have every day and that sometimes prevent us from concentrating 100%, what do you think is the relationship of today’s society with books?
On the occasion of the pandemic, we saw a slight upturn in book sales, especially in independent bookstores. According to the latest data from 2021, reading rates in Spain improved, although there is still a large percentage who say they never or rarely read (35.6% according to the barometer of Reading Habits and Book Purchasing in Spain). Bookstores play an important role in society’s relationship with books and have to reinvent themselves to be attractive to the public, pay attention to trends, and also offer other types of items that complement the reader’s experience. In other words, they must continue to innovate and look for new formulas, even if a priori it is a traditional business. With El libro imposible we believe in a new model of the bookstore.
Will we know of more spaces like El libro imposible in other cities or towns in Spain?
Very interesting and inspiring projects are emerging in that sense. Hopefully from Prodigioso Volcán, we can promote initiatives like this in other regions of Spain. At the moment, we already have three workspaces in bookstores: Madrid (Cervantes y Compañía), Barcelona (+Bernat), and Ponferrada (El libro imposible).
If Prodigioso Volcán were a person, which books would you read?
Prodigioso Volcán would read about design, innovation and creativity also, about Clear Communication, writing, and journalism. In all our workspaces we have inspiring bookshelves with copies that teams can consult, take home or use for work. Our love for books has always been one of our distinguishing features.