Quebec’s bookstores

Earlier this year I wrote about Quebec’s “bibliodiversity” and why the province’s French-language book industry has been so successful. 

I’m an avid reader and it’s no surprise that I ended up working with books. I worked in the English-language industry in Alberta and British Columbia for over three decades. The bookstore industry in Quebec is new and interesting to me. 

Bookstores, especially independent ones, bring people together. Book launches, book clubs, community events; I wondered how their closure during March and April would affect them.

The simple answer: sales decreased, online sales increased, and people bought more Quebec-published books. Some bookstores were able to host online events and clubs too.

In April, total book sales decreased by 65.3% overall. Much of the drop is because schools and public libraries are closed, and they normally buy a lot of books.

Online sales increased by an amazing 1,297% in April 2020, over the previous April. Still, they are much more labour intensive, requiring more staff and mailing costs. Many bookstores saved on mailing costs and added a local flavour by offering bicycle delivery. 

Curriculum books and textbooks sold very well since school children were learning at home and parents needed the extra help. This was good for Quebec publishers, as 95% of these books are published in the province.

Many bookstores reopened in May and have seen sales bounce back, although they won’t do so fully until schools and libraries reopen. 

About the map: The Quebec section of a Canada-wide map of bookstores that were closed but offered deliveries during the COVID-19 closures in March and April. It was created by Don Gorman of Rocky Mountain Books.

Image: - Iñaki del Olmo - Unsplash

Catherine Fisher, blogger