The book industry is dying

The book is not dying out, on the contrary

interview

The book lives, it lives again

The book trade is doing better. In the Netherlands, sales increased by 4.8 percent in 2015. In Spain by 2 percent. In France, too, the figures from the 'Syndicat national de l’édition' now show an increase in sales of 1.7 percent for 2015, after five years of downward trend. How did this upswing come about? The anthropologist Michèle Petit, who specializes in reading behavior, has found that in troubled times the book provides support and helps to find meaning.

 

It is clearly noticeable that people are looking for meaning, to find oases of clarity, to transform their grief into beauty.

Michèle Petit

ARTE Info: How do you explain the increase in book sales? Do you see a connection to the attacks and thus to the troubled times we are currently going through?

Michèle Petit:In fact, it is reminiscent of, for example, what happened in New York after September 11th, when all stores were poorly selling except the bookstores. People crowded into the bookstores. And there was a noticeable change even in France. The same thing happened after the 2008 financial crisis, when many people went to bookstores. Bookshops also experienced an upswing in Spain at the time of the great crisis a few years ago. This has actually been evident for a long time, but it has solidified in recent years, despite the supposedly significant decline in readership. It is clearly noticeable that people are looking for meaning, to find oases of clarity, to transform their grief into beauty, to find support, to find meaning, to symbolize what is happening.

In addition to the atmosphere of harrowing brutality and pervasive fear, there is also something in Europe that is happening to Europe itself. One has the impression that it is on the way to fragmentation. While this may be an illusion in part, there are tensions going in that direction. And at that point the book is perhaps a world that facilitates relationships, that puts things in context.

 

People are in a complex political situation, and they turn to human science books because it gives them direct knowledge that will help them understand what is going on.

Michèle Petit

Books from the field of human sciences are selling better and better, can fiction also serve as a refuge?

Michèle Petit:A few years ago, while doing research, I looked at the contribution that reading makes to the reconstruction of the self in difficult situations, and when you look at the books that contribute to the oases of clarity mentioned above, it is absolutely impressive to see the tremendous variety of support people get from it and how often the unexpected works. Sure, people are in a complicated political situation and they turn to human science books because it gives them direct knowledge that will help them understand what is happening, but it's natural in situations like this, even for Adults sometimes, also the poems, the fairy tales, the picture books for children, it is of course the fiction that can open this space for us and in which one can find all kinds of images, words and stories that reflect our inner world and also Make the outside world a little clearer and more distinct when everything seems chaotic.

 

The children and adolescents are not interested in books because they help them achieve better school performance, they are interested in them because they are exciting, poetic and captivating.

Michèle Petit

Can you learn to love reading?

Michèle Petit: I often say that we must remember that we are poetic animals and narrative animals. Because reading has been talked about for a very long time, having had guilty and very boring debates about the scholastic benefits that can be derived from it. I wasn't sure if that could lead to getting the kids to dedicate themselves to reading.

The children and adolescents are not interested in books because they help them achieve better school performance, they are interested in them because they are exciting, poetic and captivating. And because they have this very dimension, they are poetic animals, narrative animals that are looking for an answer to what they feel inside themselves in an indescribable way. So one must not forget what comes first and is more important than this purpose-oriented dimension, which serves the school's benefit.