Apr 9, 2023
Putin is murdering Ukrainians. Xi is likely perpetrating a
genocide on the Uyghurs. He's also threatening to murder
Taiwanese, and he's crushing democracy in Hong Kong. Trump is
ignoring the rule of law. Florida is censoring books.
Why am I doing what I'm doing? Why have I interviewed more than 600 people about the book? Well, precisely to help contribute to a better understanding of how best to stop these types of things from happening; how best to come up with and fashion good, big complex, ideas and make them public, get them discussed, motivate people to act on them, get governments to make the world a better, safer place.
These are dangerous times. Books and bookstores are more important than ever.
Despite the country's relatively low literacy rate, relative to other countries in the EU that is, Italians do understand this, and their government has done something about it.
I met Barbara Hoepli in Prague last month at the RISE Bookselling Conference. She'd just delivered a talk on the Italian bookselling business which referenced Italy's Levi (Fixed Price) Law. It limits the size of discounts that can be "levied" on books sold in the country. It's designed to help grow and support the book sector, and literacy, and culture - tangible proof, it is, of the importance Italians assign to books and bookstores in their society.
I figured it was worth talking with Barbara, not only because she has a beautiful voice and accent, but, primarily, because she's been in the book business all of her life directing both a major educational publishing house and a sizeable bookstore in Milan. We talk here about, among other things, market regulation, books being the cornerstone of our society, learning from the past, the name "Barbara," her family's 150 year history with books, and how books help us to grow and create.
And yes, I left in the sound of her phone ringing (apologies, it's loud and startling). I figured it provides an extra peel of information - one that helps the listener better understand who she, Barbara, is as a person. Maybe not. You tell me.