Bookselling by the Seine
Customers browse the books at a bouquiniste on the Left Bank of the river Seine
Kiran Ridley/Getty Images

Paris Olympics Pose an Existential Threat to the Seine’s Booksellers

The city has a plan to temporarily relocate them when the Games are on

Some streets, neighborhoods or districts have a reputation for being a home for booksellers — whether that’s Hay-on-Wye or NYC’s bygone Book Row. Bibliophiles who have visited Paris are likely well-acquainted with the city’s bouquinistes, the booksellers who’ve set up shop along the banks of the Seine, part of a tradition that extends back centuries.

You’d think that a large-scale event set to bring countless visitors to the City of Lights would be viewed as a benefit to the booksellers who’ve set up shop in one of Paris’s most enticing locations. Unfortunately, as an article in Smithsonian Magazine details, the 2024 Paris Olympics have created complications for the bouquinistes — specifically, the organizers’ plan to use the Seine for the opening ceremonies. As part of that plan, the booksellers would be temporarily relocated elsewhere. Smithsonian reports that the city would cover the moving costs, but it’s left some booksellers concerned that this nominally temporary change could be the end of an era.

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The last few years have been challenging ones for the riverside booksellers. The pandemic cut into their business tremendously; a late 2020 New York Times article described the economic challenges that the bouquinistes faced, and their concerns then that the crisis might prove lethal to their industry. It isn’t hard to see why further disruption would be unwelcome to many booksellers. The Olympics are still 11 months away, and hopefully all parties involved can find an agreeable solution.

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