We have for a while now been highlighting independent bookshops across the UK in a monthly interview on our blog. We love hearing from these wonderful booksellers, and with so many indies across the world, we thought we would add to this regular feature to shed light on bookstores further afield. Kicking things off for March 2021, we spoke with Elena and Giovanna, who run Libreria OOLP, an independent art bookstore in Turin, Italy:
“Libreria OOLP (Out of London Press) bookshop was founded in 1977 in Turin, Italy and it is one of the first art specialised bookshops in the country. We started from the very beginning to import foreign books from the United States, France, Germany and of course, England. This gave an extra special feature to the bookshop. Libreria OOLP has been independent from the beginning and after more than forty years we are proud to still be absolutely free. The past year has not been easy but thanks to online orders, personal deliveries and extra work on our social media channels we tried our best to overcome difficulties. We love books, we love reading but foremost we love art.”
1. There are only two of you working at the shop, which must take a lot of work: what does a usual day look like for you? How do you manage all the many aspects of running the business?
Yes, I confirm we are just the two of us. Giovanna and I try to keep the bookshop always open and because of this find ourselves doing so many back office activities with customers and looking through books to order. But this is the good part of all this: living all aspects of running a bookshop. We have learnt how to run an art bookshop which is completely different from a normal bookstore doing it: we did this without any past experience but we can confirm that being in the bookshop is the best school to learn the job.
2. You’ve remained independent for almost 40 years, which you must be really proud of. Do you think being independent affects the way you do business or how you deal with customers? If so, how?
Absolutely. Being independent has a lot of positive sides such as choosing the books you wish to sell, the quantities, having direct relations with the publishers, organizing your tables, shelves and windows as you like but at the same time, this gives you great responsibilities. If your choices are not correct, you pay for the mistakes from the very beginning. It’s very challenging too.
3. How do you go about choosing the wide range of art titles that you stock in your shop?
Just before Covid started, we used to have regular visits from foreign agents: this allowed us to choose every single book. But now the situation is a bit harder. We read a lot of magazines, newspapers, go through many social media profiles of artists, bookstores, publishers and try our best to keep updated.
4. If you could recommend one book published in the past year, what would it be and why?
For sure, London’s New Scene: Art and Culture in the 1960s. Not only because we sold many copies, especially during the Christmas period, but because it has great texts, beautiful pictures and it represents vitality in every form of art such as fashion, music, photography, painting. All things that we miss so much now and that make us realize how important they are for our everyday life.
5. And finally, what are you most looking forward to when restrictions ease in your area?
Absolutely, we will do book presentations in our beautiful court, with friends and authors and drive our car to garden fairs around Italy. To explain, from April to October in Italy there are so many of these events. Since one of our biggest section is dedicated to garden literature we thought it is a great opportunity to visit new places and let people know about OOLP outside our city. One of the things we tried to develop is our online store. It is easy to order and in a few days, you can receive the book directly. During the lockdowns, we offered free shipping within our city.