France: books to be considered essential products during quarantine

According to the press and information agency dpa, the French government is considering adding bookshops to the list of essential service providers - next to grocery shops, petrol stations, hardware shops, pet shops, and tobacconists - who will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think that bookshops are in fact an essential business," Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Inter radio on Thursday. "That is my conviction. I am ready to look at this issue."

The reopening of bookshops would be in line with the presidential address of President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

"Read, find your sense of the essential again," Macron encouraged citizens. "I think this is important in the world we live in. Culture, the meaning of things, is important."

Le Maire pointed out that he saw no reason to weaken the local book market in favour of Amazon. He added that strict rules for the use of the bookshops should be introduced, which would mean giving up "wandering between the shelves" and staying indoors for a long time, on which "the whole pleasure of using bookshops" is based.  Readers would have to settle for quick purchases.

The French do not look for an escape from the grim reality, though. Albert Camus' classic La Peste (“The Plague”) was fifth on bookshop chain FNAC's bestseller list on Thursday.