Little bookstores constitute an integral part of our culture and our local communities. It’s the place where writers can connect with readers, where we discover new, unknown worlds, where children are captivated by the thrill of reading that can last a lifetime. They are the places that never stop inspiring us, uniting us and spreading the love for books.

Reading Greece* spoke to Spyros Valtetsiotis, owner of Fata Libelli, about the role of little bookstores and their influence on reading preferences, as well as the challenges they are faced with and the prospects ahead.

In 2021, Fata Libelli opened its gates in the centre of Piraeus. Whats the story behind this venture of yours?

Opening a bookstore has been my big dream for years. In 2020 I decided to make my dream come true and, in the spring of 2021, I made it happen. I like to think that with this move I also made a dream come true for the residents of the town. To make Piraeus anew a place that has books and reading as its priority.

What kind of books can readers find in your bookstore?

The books that can be found in stock in the bookstore – if we were to divide them into 3 major categories – are literature, essays and children’s books. There is also a small section with foreign language titles of translated Greek literature. Apart from these, readers can order any kind of book they wish and have it delivered.

How important is the role of little bookstores? How do they influence reading preferences?

For me, the role of independent shops and, by extension, bookstores, is great for local communities and society in general because it strengthens the bonds between people and creates new ones. In small businesses, people, and not profit, are first priority. And through their, shall we say, more personal or more personalised relationship with people, their influence on buying preferences is much greater than that of a large store where the relationship is more transactional.

Which are the main challenges little bookstores face nowadays? How do you respond to these challenges? What about the prospects ahead?

I reckon that in Greece the main challenges for an independent bookstore relate to the general high cost of the times but also the competition in book prices; a competition in how to sell more cheaply and thus in the devaluation of the book.  Independent bookstores resist this totalizing trend through their diversity, their distinct characteristics and their so precious character.

Personally, I try to do the most and the best I can for my bookstore. I am optimistic about the prospects and future of bookstores. I believe that if one works and loves what they do, they will find people that will embrace their efforts.

 Would you say that the recent socio-economic crisis and the pandemic that followed has broken the ties connecting part of the readers with the choices and orientation of traditional publishers, creating an aesthetic and intellectual space that may certainly grow? 

Far from it. I believe the crisis and the pandemic have turned people to more meaningful choices.

 In the era of online communication, how have the social media influenced what people choose to read? How have reading preferences changed/evolved during the years?

Social media influence reading preferences, just as magazines or conventional media used to do, but of course to a much greater extent. I don’t know if they exert a greater influence; I can’t answer that. A far as I am concerned, they have helped me get in touch with people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get in touch with without them.

To complement my previous answer, I would say that over the last 30 years reading preferences have shifted to more quality reads. In the pre-crisis period people mostly read easily digestible “literature”. This has changed, and the average book coming out of publishers who honor their profession is higher in quality. I hope the same goes for the future.

*Interview by Athina Rossoglou