Bookstores sales this Christmas were second only to April 23, the day of Sant Jordi with its traditional gifts of books for men and roses for women.
The bookstores of Palma are the perfect thermometer of the economic situation that small businesses go through.
They defend themselves from gentrification, they are moving from one place to another because of the cost of the premises and after competition from the e-book and Amazon, they're now facing the emergence of large national chains such as Fnac which opened in Palma in November and Casa del Libro which will open in February, not to mention competition from the likes of Netflix, HBO and social networks.
According to the latest report of the Spanish Confederation of Guilds and Bookshop Associations, or CEGAL, more than half of the bookstores in Spain make less than 90,000 euros a year and 23.6% of them make less than 30,000 euros per year.
Palma booksellers are creating new survival strategies to cope with the challenges they face.
With rents soaring to around 2,000 euros per month in the old town, moving is the best way forward.
Baobab was among the first to take the plunge, moving from Carnisseria to the Plaça Aleander Fleming, then Literanta moved to the same street; Metropolis went from Plaza del Obelisco to Carrer de la Reina María Cristina; Llibres Ramon Llull moved from Carrer de l’Argenteria to Calle del Geranis and Llibrería Lluna also moved to a location in Carrer del General Riera.
“The number of bookstores on the Island is the same, because when some closed, others appeared and they’re also being updated. There are many book presentations, gatherings, writing workshops and even concerts,” says Maria Barceló, President of the Gremi de Llibreters de Mallorca.
“Many people shop at Amazon but then they have to go on trips to change the book and at most there’s a reduction of 5% applied by publishers or special offers of 6.95 euros in paperback books,” says Maria Barceló.
Children's literature in Catalan has 70% of the market share and Spanish has 30%, whereas for adults, Spanish has 60% and Catalan 40%.
“The big chains usually stock the best sellers and widely distributed titles, such as the Planeta awards or authors like Megan Maxwell or Pérez Reverte,” explains Francesc Sanchís, who’s the owner of Embat, a veteran of the sector for 41 years.
“The emergence of the Internet has affected us more than the e-book, collections of encyclopedias and dictionaries, have been replaced by Wikipedia and Google and we no longer sell dictionaries,” says Francesc Sanchís, adding "there are many people who create underemployment in these stores and there are graduates who prefer to open their own bookstore than work 40 hours a week for 700 euros, but the important thing is to increase the reading index on paper.”
Alex Volney, of Llibres Ramon Llull, says his move to the Centro Comercial Galerías Los Geranios was definitely worth it.
“Politicians are finishing with the old town and here we have a lot of customers who come from Part Forana,” he said.
Miquel Ferrer, of Rata Corner, says he moved near Carrer de Blanquerna “not for the rental price, but to enjoy a larger space and in Blanquerna there is a lot of small commerce and there are no franchises or tourists.”
The weapon of the independent bookseller is personalised attention and a cultural agenda that attracts readers and buyers.