The press release of the ALI (Italian Booksellers Association) with which the Roman booksellers announce that they do not want to participate in the next edition of Più Libri Più Liberi, the National Fair of Small and Medium Publishing to be held in Rome from 4 to 8 December next at the Cloud of Fuksas, does not come exactly unexpected: “After years of asking the organization of the fair to change the dates and not to do it in December, this year the Roman booksellers have decided not to become accomplices in an event which, by holding during the Christmas period, it weakens the already precarious economic situation of bookshops ».
Rome, the statement reads, is the only city in Italy and probably in Europe where a fair-market takes place close to the time of year when booksellers traditionally hope to be able to make ends meet: and as a former member I can confirm to the category that for Italian bookstores the weeks leading up to Christmas constitute a real lifeline, given that as is well known – despite the recent turnaround – our country does not shine in terms of the number of readers and that the book has always been the gift that is used when one wants (or is forced) to spend little in terms of gifts to put under the tree.
While the president of the Roman booksellers Ilaria Milana points out how during the lockdown the bookstores took action to help the community through a series of initiatives – from the collection of parcels for disadvantaged families to the service of the “suspended book” for children and the children whose parents were unable to bear the costs of school texts, passing through the home delivery of volumes ordered primarily by the elderly – on the other he underlines how “public administrations and publishers, writers and intellectuals, stand always in defense of bookstores, but in fact, by supporting the fair, they undermine its economic stability and Rome continues to lose its bookstores, true cultural garrisons spread throughout the city ».
Now, for heaven’s sake: as in all clichés, even in what has circulated in the sector since time immemorial and says “booksellers always cry” there is a grain of truth; but the fact that the Christmas period often corresponds to about 30% of the annual turnover of most bookstores is unfortunately an indisputable fact.
Indeed, it would be wonderful to live in a country where the book is in many cases not only the gift-refuge to be used at the last moment bookshop in desperate search for help: “Please, I have to make a gift but it’s cheap, what do you recommend?”), yet so be it.
The Roman booksellers, it is pointed out in the press release, do not question the quality of the event (which year after year has undoubtedly been able to conquer a prominent place on the national scene) but only its dates. And it being understood that in the autumn months it is not easy to find a glimpse between Mantua and Pordenone and Milan, to mention only the most famous festivals, at this point all that remains is to find the famous square: more than men of fame, they would like some good ones will. If they materialize, they will certainly be praised.