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.

Now in its third year, Little Bookstores Week 2024 (27 May – 1 June) is returning as a more accessible, fun, and inclusive literary festival. 122 bookshops all over Greece, from Zakynthos and Patmos to Crete and Thrace, are coming together to this celebration dedicated to books and love for reading that aims to strengthen our relationship with little bookstores through encounters with beloved authors and activities aimed at readers of all ages.

This year’s events and actions aim to highlight through the power of cooperation and participation, the value of meeting and coexistence. Discussions, book launches and tributes are just some of the different types of events, while the program will also include music, screenings and parties. Readers will have the chance to meet their favourite authors and illustrators, who will be booksellers for a day, chat with them, exchange reading ideas and suggestions and also get signed copies of their books. Alongside the program of events for adults, little bookstores have curated a separate program especially for children. Thus, throughout the Little Bookstores Week, young readers can participate in creative workshops, games and storytelling.

*Reading Greece spoke to Demi Koutsostamati, the woman behind Little Bookstores Week about her venture, the events that will take place during this week, the crucial role that little bookstores play, the challenges they are faced with and the prospects ahead.

Little Bookstores Week is an action that aims to acquaint booklovers with the magic world of little bookstore. What’s the story behind this venture of yours?

Little Bookstores is a project that highlights the vital role local bookstores play in our communities. It is inspired by the small, simple pleasure of visiting a little bookshop and the importance of supporting local. It started back in 2016 aiming to strengthen people’s connection with their local bookstores that were struggling with the aftermath of the economic crisis.

Τhe idea of Little Bookstores Week was born during the quarantine, a time that we were deprived of the opportunity to visit our favorite bookshops and engage in the enriching experiences they offer. Also, a time rather challenging for their viability since they faced financial strain, prompting the need for initiatives to support them.

Tell us a few things about the events that will take place during the Little Bookstores Week and the bookstores that will be part of them.

Little Bookstores Week is a big annual celebration that involves more than 100 bookstores all over Greece. It is based on the idea of connecting the local small bookstores for a common purpose -promoting reading in the local communities- while celebrating diversity as well, since every little bookstore has its own unique identity.

This year, little bookstores will highlight through their events the power of collaboration and participation, the value of meeting and coexisting. They invite us to discover books that talk about the importance of inclusion, collectivity, and consensus. To experiment with the synthesis of different ideas and literary genres, with creative writing, and much more!

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

Whether being a regular or not, we all have visited a little bookstore at least once in our lives. And although every reader’s personal experience is unique, there are a few things that many could identify with: the pervading sense of serenity, of shutting out the noise of the city, of being alone with one’s thoughts, of exploring new ideas and remembering those that shaped one’s identity.

Little bookstores add on collective experience as well, as they are an integral part of local communities and everyday life often revolves around them. In these small local shops, bibliophiles get together frequently. Vivid discussions about books may take place anytime. Younger readers may experience the pleasure of reading for the first time or listen to an author read their favorite book. This sense of belonging, of sharing knowledge and interacting with other people based on a common interest can briefly describe why regulars tend to feel at home and to create a special bond with their beloved bookstores.

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

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are up against an increasingly digital marketplace and the yet unknown impact of AI. Furthermore, the challenge for traditional booksellers to adapt to this rapidly advancing technological era remains ongoing.

Nevertheless, little bookstores are known and loved for bringing bibliophiles together long before any platform did. They are favored for the knowledgeable booksellers suggesting our next read long before digital cookies and algorithms did. Moreover, they have been the primary choice of eco conscious readers for their low ecological footprint long before it became an appealing corporate identity. That’s why local communities have shown very sensitive reflexes when it comes to supporting them and we believe that they will continue to do so.

Stay tuned and enjoy #miavdomadastamikra in the places we love and cherish the most: little bookstores!

*Interview by Athina Rossoglou

Read also: Reading Greece: Elena Polygeni on Little Bookstores as an Invaluable Part of Our Cultural Life; Reading Greece: Antonis Tsokos on Monocle Bookstore and Editions and the Role of Bookstores In Fostering Reading; Reading Greece: Librofilo & Co – A Point of Reference for Book Lovers in Koukaki; Reading: Sporos Bookstore – A Meeting Point for Writers, Artists and Readers in Kifissia; Reading Greece: Fata Libelli – A Bookstore that Made Piraeus Anew a Place that Has Books and Reading as its Priority; Reading Greece: Amorgos – A Little Bookstore in the Middle of the Aegean