Outgoing Minister Van Engelshoven (Culture) opened the Boekenweek in Purmerend this morning. She presented the first copies of the Boekenweekgeschenk and Boekenweekessay to the authors Hanna Bervoets and Roxane van Iperen.
Normally the Book Week is in March, but because of corona the promotion ten days was postponed. Now that things are going in the right direction with the fight against the virus, it is still a party in the bookstores and libraries. Although it is different than usual.
“Normally the Boekenweek is a big party, with lectures, performances by authors and crowds of people”, says Eveline Aendekerk, director of the Collective Propaganda foundation of the Dutch Book (CPNB). “It is now also a party, but in a different way because of the corona measures.”
Bookstores were not ‘essential’
Much more is happening online and in the open air. “Writers sign outside, there are performances from a balcony. Very creative and I think just as much.” According to the CPNB director, many publishers waited with new titles until the bookstores were open again. “Especially for authors who are not so well known, it is important that they are in the bookstore.”
The bookshops have had a rough time. They were closed for months because the cabinet did not classify the bookshops as ‘essential’. Hardly anything was earned, while the fixed costs for rent and personnel costs continued. Home delivery of books could not make up for the loss of turnover in the store.
“The stores have lost 80 percent of their turnover. That is significant, because the margins are narrow,” says the director of the Royal Booksellers’ Association Anne Schroën. “It is not possible to catch up with the decline in turnover in one, two, three. The bookshops need support from the government.”
On the surface, the damage is not that bad, few bookstores have gone bankrupt. But according to Schroën, this gives a distorted picture of the malaise. “We see dozens of closures. Booksellers are retiring early. Other companies, also healthy ones, are closing because the recovery can take three to five years.”
Because the bookstores were closed for months, the store still has old stock. Half of them are more or less dated. “Books are not cucumbers and therefore have a shelf life, but customers expect new supply after a period of standstill.” The publishers’ offer is “great, fantastic”, but to show that financial support is needed from the government, says Schroën. “Bookstores make Dutch writers visible.”
The Book Week, with the theme fight, lasts until Sunday, June 6. The Book Week Gift What we saw by Hanna Bervoets is free when you spend at least 15 euros. The Book Week Essay The genocide fax from Roxane van Iperen costs 3.75 euros. Babs Gons wrote the Boekenweekpoem ‘Polyglot’.