Hello and Welcome to Le Blog!
Hello and welcome to Le Blog! We created this page to bring the bookstore’s busy life to the web in order to stay better connected with all of our far-flung friends around the world. Over the next weeks, we’ll be adding more posts, including from author Erica Wagner on her experience judging the Man Booker Prize 2014; our head book-buyer on the season’s exceptional new releases from both large and small presses; author Adam Biles on interviewing the wise and charming John Berger here at the shop; our events manager on Richard Ford and Margaret Atwood (among many others!) at our pop-up stand at Festival America; and our irresistible resident Tumbleweeds on their summer tour of Europe, busking, writing, and breaking hearts in every city.
Le Blog is just one feature of the bookshop’s new website, which will launch fully in November. We’re excited!
Until recently, we had a website built around the shop’s events and, visually, around its archives. With the new site, we wanted to maintain this historical and tactile feel while at the same time introducing an original way of selling books online. Browsing the shop’s forthcoming site—leafing through a stack of archival photos, listening to a podcast of Zadie Smith’s recent event—will be like dipping into our old bookstore, here on the bank of the Seine, from wherever you might be.
I won’t spoil too many surprises in this post, but I will mention one other new feature of the coming website . . . You’ll soon be able to buy books and have them customized in very Parisian ways! There will be stamps involving cats, poems involving life, even perfumes involving love. And as to the books themselves, we’ll soon be offering vintage paperbacks with suggestive titles and racy covers, rare books from our recently refurbished Antiquarian, and the very latest releases, many signed by their authors.
Some people might say that this is a doomed moment to be launching a website selling books. The industry is, indeed, in the midst of transformation, and it still doesn’t seem to be on a clear path. Fortunately, we’re lucky to be here in France, where bookstores are supported by a fixed book price agreement. It limits how much titles can be discounted, whether they’re sold online or in brick-and-mortar stores. The law helps protect shops like ours, allowing us to think about how to translate our world online, to extend our community to people around the globe, and to experiment with approaching bookselling in a different, modern way.
One of our other big projects at the moment is a book about the shop’s history. In researching it, we keep unearthing brilliant gems, including from Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Anaïs Nin, and the many other writers who’ve passed through here. As a taster of the book, I’d like to quote a wonderful paragraph my father, George Whitman, wrote while hoboing through the United States and Central America in the 1930s. It sums up his humanist philosophy and that of the bookstore he would create a few years later.
The highest quality of an individual is to be human. The phrase “to be human” means to follow life wherever it may lead, up and down, down and up, from the bottom of the world to the top, from darkness into light, through each degree of good and evil. As the circle of knowledge widens, life grows more beautiful and heroic. We are part of everything—men, books, cities, railroads—all made from the same atoms and molecules, all living together and dying together, joined into one imperishable unity that can never be divided.
I hope you’ll enjoy these voices from past and current visitors, authors, friends, booksellers, and Tumbleweeds on Le Blog. And I hope you’ll come and see us soon in Paris, to share with us your passion for books. The shop’s full website is coming in a few weeks—in the meantime, let’s take a trip together Down the Rabbit Hole . . .