It has been nearly a month since the bookstore doors have been opened again, closed on 19 December due to pandemic restrictions. Booksellers say that this time has got readers interested in buying books over the Internet and bookstores are not too crowded. For many, however, it is increasingly important to feel and break in the book before purchasing.
“I'll say it's slow, but we're moving again,” said Velga Biseniece, manager of Smiltene's only bookstore. The shop is not large, and only two customers may be in it at the same time.
“But people are happy, they come. Of course it's not a food shop – a person comes, they want to look at everything, see what's new. It's not like one runs in and out. One usually dwells,” said Biseniece.
The biggest demand is observed for the latest literature and children's books.
Books by two recently deceased poets – Kornēlija Apškrūma and Marika Svīķe – have been sold out. During the "quiet period" books could be ordered by phone, but the small Smiltene bookstore could not always be meet the demand. Biseniece said that the change in shopper habits is felt a little now, too.
Publisher “Zvaigzne ABC”, which has more than 30 bookshops in Latvia, observed a significant increase for the internet store.
“People want to come and buy onsite. But there are undoubtedly also people who are understandably cautious. We see that the number of books orders on the Internet has increased. At the moment, when bookstores are open, it has fallen, but it is not a big fall. Books on the Internet are ordered a lot more than they were last year during this period,” said the owner of Zvaigzne ABC, Vija Kilbloka. At Zvaigzne, new literature is also the most demanded.
The total turnover compared to last year has fallen by 10-15%, particularly because of closing bookstores at the hottest time just before Christmas. However, the main thing is that you can now work, said Kilbloka: “We're working with great pleasure – I've returned to life!”
Also optimistic is Ināra Beļinkaja, who heads the publisher “Jānis Roze.” Three new Jānis Roze bookstores were opened in Rīga during the year of the pandemic. “So it smoothed the total figures out a little bit. However, we have not yet fully achieved last year's result,” said Beļinkaja.
The share of Internet purchases has also increased for Roze bookstores, but turnover is affected by the fact that many of the company's bookshops are located in malls.
In general, however, bookstore owners are very pleased about the opportunity to work and the gradual return of buyers. Libraries have also been reopened since January 12, but their reading rooms are still closed for visitors.