At Home in Bookshops

The rhetoric of the domestic sphere in French independent bookshops

In: Logos
Sophie Noël
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Although protected by the law on fixed prices for books, independent bookshops in France have struggled to maintain their market share against bookselling giants such as Amazon and the chains. In trying to do so, they have developed a rhetoric based on the singularity of the experience in physical shops, stressing a sense of intimacy akin to that associated with the domestic sphere. Their being independent – no matter how slippery the notion – has also been a key argument. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of symbolic goods, this paper aims to show that this strategy has been effective in singling out something that ‘only’ independent retail can provide, something that proves particularly attractive to certain categories of customers. The article draws on semi-structured interviews carried out with owners of small and medium-sized independent bookshops, together with observation during events and debates, to provide some insight into a key element of physical bookshops’ resilience.

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