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More than a business idea, behind a independent bookstore there is a construction project, conversation and debate”Reflects Guillermo Rivas, managing partner of the Books & Co and Book Vivant bookstores, on the challenges that today the rise in the dollar, the pandemic and the still political uncertainty bring to spaces that seek to promote culture.

Against all odds, independent bookstores have evolved in Peru for several years, to the point that, in recent months, Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of many bookstores, there was a so-called “rebound” effect. which, according to Rivas, was due to the increase in the demand for readings in times of confinement, opening spaces for new proposals.

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In recent months, they opened eight new independent bookstores in Lima and three in the provinces and every day I find new ones in the virtual world”, Highlights Rivas.

Whether they are specialized in sports content, current affairs or focused on female authors, the new independent physical and virtual spaces share the same value: to show that Peru is not a country that reads little, but one that was not attracted by the right books.

I am a regular reader and I wanted to promote literature written by women, which is not so visible. I knew about the risk I was taking, but today in Compulsive Pleasures we have shelves with more than 600 authors, and we continue with a very good list of writers that we need to include”, Says Verónica Villarán, owner of the bookstore focused on female writers.

“In recent months, eight new independent bookstores have opened in Lima and three in the provinces and every day I find new ones in the virtual world”, highlights Guillermo Rivas from Book Vivant.

A similar situation was experienced by Humberto Meneses, director of the Decontra bookstore, specialized in sports books, who despite having more time in the online market, was reinforced during the pandemic. “Our project started as an investigation, but during the pandemic it grew from 70% to 80%”He comments.

The genesis of the Vallejo (physical bookstore) and Buensalvaje (virtual) bookstores were different. Both sought to differentiate themselves with respect to the classic bookstores and attract that public that has been classified as little reader. Dante Trujillo, director of Buensalvaje, assures that readers have always been told what they had to read and in what format they should do it. “If today they do not read what is offered to them, we must take advantage of the areas that have not been explored yet and get closer to the people. Our ‘job’ is to attract the reader, not wait for them to arrive alone“, Remarks.


The books also could not escape the impact of the rise of the dollar. Although the products of the basic basket are the most affected, so are imports.

A 10% rise in the dollar makes a book that I bought at S / 10, now it is at S / 11 at S / 11.50. We can maintain the price for a while, assuming the additional cost that this entails, but if the dollar continues to rise, we will see the need to rise [precios]”, Mentioned with regret David Ballardo, Vallejo bookstore director.

Meneses de Decontra narrates a similar situation, who affirms that the effect of the exchange rate is already being felt because importing books is costing them more. “Today we can negotiate with distributors, but in the long run, this will end up impacting the price,” he estimates.

Although today they can negotiate with distributors, the rise in the dollar will end up impacting the price, booksellers estimate.
Although today they can negotiate with distributors, the rise in the dollar will end up impacting the price, booksellers estimate.

Rivas from Book Vivant, for his part, affirms that in view of this it is very important that before September there is a clear message from the new government, not only on an economic level but also on the cultural side. “In September the big imports, reprints and prints are made for the year-end sales. That is why it is vital to make decisions earlier so that the book season in December does not go into crisis.”, Explains Rivas. It also highlights the need for a book price law, since the Peruvian market still does not have the protection of the book culture and there is no price defense law as exists in Argentina and Spain.

As it is recalled, in October 2020 the Book Law in Peru was extended for three more years, which exempts the sale of books from VAT, supports and encourages the opening of libraries, among other aspects.


All independent bookstore projects start from a reading initiative, it is rare for someone to start an independent bookstore just with the business idea”, Argues Rivas.

This he comments because, at the profitability level, it is very difficult to maintain an independent bookstore due to the small margins and high structural costs. “I’ve been an independent bookseller for four years and still 30% of my income goes to rent. Thus, competition is more difficult with the discounts made by the large retail bookstore chains of 30% to 35% on the sale price“, mentions.

Despite this, online sales did help in these tough months. In some cases, they were born with them and in others he forced them to transform. Villarán, from Compulsive Pleasures, says that a month before opening their store in Barranco, they started the sale through social networks. Today, they represent 20% of your income.



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