Mikhail Ivanov. A photo: instagram

– Now there are no clear criteria for prohibitions, it is not clear who will deal with this. We are talking about tens of thousands of books a year, huge texts. In addition to fiction, there may also be scientific literature. Discontent can be caused by one random word that someone did not like. As long as there are no clear criteria, all this, on the one hand, is unrealistic, and on the other hand, it is even more crowding the already cluttered book market. They want us to clean everything up with our self-censorship.

I’m silent about all the other absurdities that this all carries in itself. We have already had books packed in this film for a long time, labeled. If you think about it, just because somewhere it says “dick” or not even “dick”, but any other “adult” word, the book will be wrapped in a film. Seriously? Well, a 16-year-old man can’t figure out how to buy a book with the word “dick”? He buys alcohol, he buys cigarettes, and he will buy books. Even in the Soviet Union they managed to wear jeans and chew gum. It’s not going anywhere, it’s a fight against windmills. But I understand what is being done for: this is hype, PR, there is nothing productive in this.

We have no internal censorship. With our team, even if you want to do something that goes beyond our principles, you will be beaten up very quickly. We have 100 people in the team – and everyone has their own opinion. Everyone has the right to say if they don’t like something. There is already a discussion going on. For us to remove Akunin or Parfyonov, Ulitskaya or Katya Gordeeva from sales is simply ridiculous. As long as they don’t take us out with the roots forward, we are not going to remove anything.

Yes, even now some people periodically come and say: “You only have liberal books.” Or: “You have everything about the war, you have everything about it.” I believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You, if you want to see it all, you will see. And this will not even be 1% of our store: we have an assortment of 40 thousand books on various topics from Soviet furniture to the flora of the Middle Ages.

If the book is written by a professional, a person with regalia and qualifications, we will sell. What does his origin or political views have to do with it? In this regard, we try to strike a balance. There is something that many people try to pass off as censorship, but in reality it is just poor quality or tasteless – no matter what the message of the book is – and we do not sell it. For many, this is impossible to explain.

We have an internal rule: we sell the best, in our opinion, books to the widest possible audience. Never judging for what she reads something else, but suggesting: but try something else. Our task is to move books so that they are read more, bought and, accordingly, published more.

– From the latter, we re-released Federico Fellini’s Making a Film. We searched for the relatives of the translator for a long time: we talked to market experts, and we were told that there could not be a better translation from Italian of this book. We have released it in a new edition.

We started working with American prose and serious prose in general. For example, we have published a collection of short stories “The Birds of America” ​​by Lorrie Moore, we will soon have her novel. At first, we were more into non-fiction, especially in the arts. But with Moore, the experience is good: books sell well, good press and criticism. We were able to find something that is truly unique to the market.

In the near future we will publish a new reading of “The Ballad of a Little Tugboat” by Joseph Brodsky. It is clear that the poems have not changed, but together with the artist Kasya Denisevich we have made a book with new illustrations in good print quality.

If we talk about rights, nothing has changed with some countries: with the Americans, Italians. The problem is with the British. They are, in general, the main allies of Ukraine. And London is the largest hub of art publications in Europe. Therefore, in Russia now there is a problem with albums. Some authors also said they did not want to work with the Russians.

We, like all publishers, no longer have the right to take risks, given the cost of printing a book and the lack of paper, deadlines and rights. Now publishing houses will treat the publication as scrupulously as possible and there will be no daring projects that sometimes shoot up and decorate the market.

The development of the market at zero – it does not exist. It is sometimes said that saving leads to a new vision, but I see that the book market has suffered so much in 30 years of free floating that many give up.

– In order to reassure the buyer, it was necessary to reassure the team. All were, to put it mildly, with bowed heads. It’s also about responsibility. I am responsible for all the children – I call the employees children, and as a human being I want everyone to be in order.

From the first day of work, we had this position: we are an island of safety on the intensive Liteiny Prospekt. There are several brothels around us, the Mariinsky Hospital, where all the problem situations of the center are taken. And we always wanted people to feel good with us, so that they would come to us and forget what was happening.

This was also the case during covid: we constantly maintained social networks, communicated with our community online all the time, our message was this: “Guys, the books are left, you are left, we are left, let’s continue to try to do something, somehow live.” Even if it helped at least two people, we did not try in vain.

Same thing now. Our store is built in such a way that you can stay here for several hours and have time to see only a part of the assortment. Until now, there are buyers who do not know that we have a second floor. This is such a moment when you come and try to distract yourself not only from what is happening now, but in general from all problems. And it’s great, it seems to me that we are working in this direction.

We recently opened a book club. There were so many applications – we closed the registration in five minutes. There is an Italian garden in our yard, we had a picnic there in August – we celebrated our birthday. More than 7 thousand people came during the day. We have a Creative writing course for teenagers. Eight – ten people gather in the store, learn to write.

A photo: instagram

These are things that in the market or in principle in the book world will not do something right away, but gradually can bear fruit. In principle, we have a fairly inert market. There are no quick fixes. They say: “We adopted some kind of Russian program to support reading …” But it works not from above, but from below. Nobody knows their readers better than bookstores and publishers. And stores and publishers need to have the resources, the freedom, and the money to reach out to those who just don’t yet know they love books so much.

We try not to worry, but to work, to come up with something new. This is where we look for peace and tranquility – in projects, affairs, our employees and their support. This is the main part of the success of our store – the people who work here day and night, they are very dedicated.

— The problem with international delivery started back in covid, when warehouses were closed and mail was not working well. Previously, this was a good help: the check was high, because it was not profitable to carry a little and people took a lot of things. At the same time, problems with delivery to Ukraine began – a law was passed prohibiting the import of many Russian books, and there are many readers, including intellectual non-fiction, which we specialize in and which was not published in Ukrainian.

When 90% of parcels [в другие страны] lost on the way or returned to us, we have closed international shipping. Now there is also the issue of payments: banks are very bad with processing, so we are temporarily not working with the West. If we are asked to send something abroad, we do it on an individual basis, we try to find options. But this option is no longer available on the website. Now we work only with Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia, because they have SDEK and Russian Post.

We would love to see returning regular customers receive books and support from us. Many write: “I miss the Signatures”, lay out our bags, show other bookstores and tag us. We see that most of our customers have left, and this is a great tragedy for everyone.

— We have been working with Dom Knigi since 2014. I saw very well what had become of the store: there weren’t really any books there. And I understood that soon the old cameraman would be gone – this was obvious to the entire book community. It was a dispute between two business entities that had nothing to do with the city. I can say with absolute certainty that Smolny’s hands do not stick out of this.

When I was invited to help [с перезапуском «Дома книги»]I gladly agreed. After all, this place is a visiting card of St. Petersburg, a kind of museum. St. Petersburg is my place of power, my love, my life. I don’t want this place to be overgrown with weeds.

I wrote the primary concept of the store, which is expressed in the fact that the priority is the book. He helped with the interior, with furniture, with the database, to look for people who will create it. Bookseller is a challenging profession, with a long learning cycle and a lot of engagement. I practically did not interfere in the assortment policy: there are books there that seem not close to us in Subscription.

But we do not compare the new “House of Books” and “Subscription Editions” like a fork and a knife. These are different stores both in function and in spirit. Dom Knigi is a store for the whole city, for tourists. It differs from “Subscribed Editions” in terms of assortment, pricing policy, and employees (also professionals).

As a result, I am not ashamed that now there is such a bookstore on Nevsky, 28. I really care what happens there and how it all looks.

– We, like in any retail, have different analytics. If we talk about top sales, then in 2022 it has changed. We see a request for books about what is happening, why this is happening, has it been like this before. When there are no sources of information left, people start asking books.

Again, the book is one of the few sources of information that has been verified at least by the editor-in-chief, the publisher’s reputation, and the author’s regalia. You can look through all this and draw conclusions whether to trust this author or not.

Now there are two requests: “Help me understand what is happening” and “Help me forget about what is happening.” And that’s why novels, long novels are popular. Eternal things never go away.

Attendance has changed: it has fallen by 15 percent. This is taking into account that prices have increased as a result of what is happening, including because our tax structure has changed: there are much more of them due to the fact that we became a VAT payer company.

In ten years we have never [экономически] did not fall, only grew. Until September, everything was more or less in terms of sales, distribution, demand. But here you are: October and November are a clear indicator of the decline of the market, we went to zero.

This creates huge financial hardship for our crazy staff of almost 100 people just in the bookstore and for our taxes. We have about half of the assortment – small independent publishing houses that sell books without VAT (it turns out that we pay taxes from large publishing houses half as much as from independent ones). Therefore, we pay twice as much taxes after the sale of a book than any chain store that sells only books from large publishers. That’s how taxation works, and it’s a big injustice.

At the same time, our business is a socially responsible business recognized by the State Duma. They should help, but so far no one has helped. We barely pulled out the covid, then there was an increase associated with domestic tourism, and now sometimes you go in, but there are no people at all in the store. At least on weekends there are many tourists. But this is also an indicator: people either left or do not want to spend money, because they understand that they will need it in the near future, and certainly not books.

In principle, ten years were not bad for the book market, we were lucky that we developed in them. Now the main thing is to at least preserve all this, and then increase it when it gets lighter.