By Dennis Abrams
Are bookstores in Sofia, Bulgaria seeing a rebirth? Rumyana Tsvetkova, reporting for Radio Bulgaria, says that they are.
“In recent years, new bookstores have virtually mushroomed in the city of Sofia. They have moved on to claim not only street corners and main streets but even crossing. Others have set foot in shopping malls and residential districts…The renaissance of bookstores is a piece of good news given that in the 1990s and onwards quite a few of them were hastily closed down and replaced with cafes and deluxe stores.”
But is this necessarily a good thing? Tsvetkova raises an interesting question: how is it that so many stores are able to survive with so much competition, especially given the fact that “Bulgarians are definitely not buying more books than before.”
Tsvetkova quotes Assen Mitov, who runs a small bookstore in the center of town, and has been in business since 1989. “Now an illusion is being created that book publishing is booming right now and the wrong impression comes from the unnecessarily large quantity of bookstores in central Sofia. There is nothing wrong with this, because the market will regulate the situation in a natural way. The unhealthy thing in all this however is that books by serious writers are published in circulations such as 1000 copies, and then they fail to get sold for years. This I’d call a negative trend.”
In addition to the independent bookstores, publishing houses often own their own bookstore. For example Fyut, a publisher of children’s books, has three bookstores in Sofia. Pavlina Genova, an employee at one of Fyut’s stores observes that:
“Our priority is to serve customers with competence and politeness. We also provide an extensive choice of books, especially for children. Even during a crisis, books for children are bought. Sales of books for adults have declined a bit, This is most probably due to electronic books that are cheaper. Well, printed books’ prices have almost doubled since VAT was levied on them.”
And of course, online book sales have grown over the last few years and have become another challenge for small bookstores. “Books have very good online sales in Bulgaria,” said Petar Vantchev, manager of Bulgaria’s biggest online store and Chairman of the Association of E-Commerce. “Hundreds and thousands of books are sold online every day.”
What’s selling online? Self-help books, along with business literature, textbooks, manuals and dictionaries, along with a recent boom in…accounting books.
For avid reader Gergana Nedeva, both bookstores and online buying have their advantages:
“I buy more often in bookstores,” she said,” because I enjoy the atmosphere. Besides, one can scan the pages of the book, sitting comfortably in an armchair. In the bookstore, you meet other people that love books. This experience, a ritual of a kind, is something I love. I also shop online but I do that jointly with friends to minimize delivery charges. Online trade is good when one is looking for books that are not available in classical bookstores.”