Field trip at the Lucioles

By Sylvain Poncet, Case officer.

It’s been a while since I last went to Vienne which is only a mere twenty minutes drive from home and definitely worth a visit, though of a more modest size than its Austrian homonym.

Walking round Vienne historical center is a real pleasure : Cybele archeological gardens,the  antic theater, Pipet belvedere and of course Augustus and Livie’s roman temple. This is where I’m heading to : Lucioles bookstore – client who the Bees have the joy to support daily.

I am to meet with Alain Bélier, one of the co-owner of the bookshop. He tells me about the history and running the bookshop. It was created in 1976 by Michel Bazin and went through numerous removals and extensions, going from 30 to 250 sq.m. Further to Mr Bazin’s retirement, Alain Bélier and renaud Junillon took over the activity in 2011 and have been pursuing this great story since.

The bookshop in figures

The bookshop sells some 250 000 books per year, owns 35 000 books in inventory, is being delivered 1 to 4 palets a day and organizes 200 events per year (meeting with authors, signing sessions, round-table discussions… ) !

It is one of the largest independant bookshops in Rhone-Alpes region and a major actor of Vienne area. If sales remain the core activity of the store, it has successfully developed its business with local authorities : more than 80 media libraries and academic groups. It also participates in external events (Quai du Polar à Lyon, Fête du livre de Bron, Festival America à Vincennes…) Lastly, it takes part to Festival Vendanges Graphiques in Condrieu, dedicated to graphic novel and wine, which Fifty Bees have been financially supporting since its creation.

But incidentally… Why buying a book in a bookshop rather than on internet or at the supermarket ? A major law, often unknown though quite present in our daily life, is the one of the unique price of books (loi n° 81-766 dated August 10th, 1981 related to the price of books and named Lang Law (after Jack Lang, minister of Culture). The editor sets the price. Retailers can compete on this price. In consequence, a book won’t be more expensive in a bookshop than on internet or in a supermarket.

Alain Bélier tells me why he took the bookshop over.

« When I was an engineer, I used to read a lot but I couldn’t get any advice. There were some stores which were books storerooms but weren’t able to help me with my reading alternatives. One day, i asked : « I’ve read such and such, who else could you suggest ? » And I was answered « Look up the 4th cover… ». When arriving in Vienne in 2001, I cam accross this bookshop. I asked for some advice and I was suggested a fantastic book. I came back, an incredible book again. I became an avid reader and started to take interest in the life of the bookshop. When Mr Bazin thought of retiring, I wished to continue his activity though passing behind this renowned bookseller was tough.

We rea fortunate to have a big enough structure (10 employees) to have thematic experts and avid readers enable to provide advice. It is really a chance for a reader. »

Litterary season

Every year in September,it is the back-to-school season but also the litterary season. 2020 vintage includes some 511 novels and, between the books to store and those to take out of the closet, you need to make a choice. According to Alain Bélier, there is no question «  we have a special corner for the novelties mais we must keep some books of reference. It is not because a book is 5 years old that it is outdated and that we have to discard it in favor of a recent book, not as good. »

Lucioles bookstore, because of its footage and thanks to the support of CNL (National Center of Books), can keep its collection of books (children’s books as much as novels, etc.) even though it represents a small part of its turnover. They are indispensable to any bookstore.

Litterary season is a major momento but we are always divided between helping the editors with the media coverage and keeping this collection of books ».

And since Covid-19 ?

Our talk focused on the unprecedented lock down context and all the difficulties linked to the decresing consumption of the item « book ». This enables to question ourselves about the space of reading in our lives.

The lock down confirmed that a book is a great life companion. When you hear people cry for help “why can’t we buy our books anymore ? », you get the impression that it is just as important as bread. While no, it’s not vital but you can’t conceive a life without books, especially in these weird times… »

Today, if we may be worried regarding activities connected to the store (external events, meetings, relations with media-libraries…), the most sensitive area is the good health of the actors in the book chain. If the bookstore manages to recover but if the editors or retailers don’t follow, this may have a major impact on the « world of the book ».

Alain Bélier remains positive about the activity : « the messages we received during the lock down were extraordinary. We even received orders on our cell phones at midnight. We actually look forward to continuing our extension project for the store. »

A great impetus which gives the desire to read… and visit Lucioles bookstore, in Vienne!