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I'm going to be visiting Paris this September, and I'm looking for bookshops. Specifically, I'm interested in the French classics (Rostand, Hugo, Proust...), in nice hardback editions, and bookshops that have an atmosphere. (Hatchard's in London is an example of what I mean by 'atmosphere'.)

You'd think that buying books in French in the capital of France shouldn't be difficult, but Google keeps spitting at me English bookshops in Paris, like the Shakespeare&Company.

So if I want to buy nice editions of French classics (in French) in Paris, where should I go?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about travel. – fkraiem Jul 16 '18 at 11:13
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    @fkraiem I don't understand: 'where do I buy X in Y' seem to be on topic for the 'shopping' tag, for example here: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/117310/… and here: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/115566/… – Galastel Jul 16 '18 at 11:17
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    Asking for the kind or general location of specific kinds of shops is on topic. Asking for addresses for shops is not, answers can include sample addresses but general information that does not get outdated as fast is preferred. – Willeke Jul 16 '18 at 11:30
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    Be aware that a bookshop is called a 'librairie' in French, whereas a library is called a 'bibliothèque'. – audionuma Jul 16 '18 at 12:00
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    I have just tried searching for librairie Paris from a computer in England and I get lots of hits, reviews, newspaper surveys of bookshops, ... – mdewey Jul 16 '18 at 12:16
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I disagree with some of the other answers. There are still a lot of incredible, nice libraries and bookshops, with passionate and expert people. Fnac and Gibert are not so great to visit, but why not.

Gibert can be a bit interesting tho, as it is big and has a lot of books and themes (they did not "reduced in size quite drastically" as @jcaron said). And their employees can be pretty good.

The nice, historical shops did not close, the great majority still are there, standing. Their employees have a great knowledge of recent, old and specialized literature and books most of the time, which is not the case in supermarkets like the fnac.

For philosophy, J.Vrin, founded in 1911 near the Sorbonne is very nice, with a good atmosphere, all classics and recent philosophy publication. They have 3 shops near the Sorbonne. Their vendors all are experts from what I have seen.

The Librairie Delamain, said to be the oldest of Paris (founded in 1700, moved in 1900) is an historical monument and is still opened. It was frequented by very famous authors and presidents of France (Coctau, Aragon, Miterrand). Beautiful.

Galignani, founded in 1911 has a nice 1930 decor and atmosphere. Knowledgeable sellers and classical foreign and french books. Lot of art books.

There are dozains of wonderful places like those. Here you can find more.

I personally recommend l'ecume des pages (near Saint-Germain) and l'arbre du voyageur (near Mouffetard). La compagnie du livre near the Sorbonne is also really interesting.

The price of the unused / new books is the same everywhere in France so no reason to go to ugly supermarkets with less books than classical, wonderful libraries for the same price imo.

For comics and european 'bande dessinée' the Album shops are really cool, a lot of choice and the vendors are nice and know their job :)

  • Regarding your last comment, Album has actually closed some of its stores and isn't in a very good shape... I've also found that Gibert (at least the one near Saint-Louis selling bandes déssinées) and Aaapoum Bapoum have a very qualified staff as well. – FreeSalad Jul 16 '18 at 17:36
  • @FreeSalad True that. I like Aaapoum Bapoum too :) I think Album opened another shop, smaller tho. – NanoPish Jul 17 '18 at 9:07
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Are you looking for new or used books?

If it is the latter, there is a number of really nice used book stores in Paris, but they generally shun away from tourist-y locations. Since every store has a different atmosphere and specialization, it is impossible to pick a "winner" to everyone's liking, and your best bet may be simply typing "librarie" or "libres" into Google Maps and going to the nearest ones blindly — chances are you will be for a nice surprise! Or look for local business listings such as Yellow Pages.

Most likely though none of that will be needed and it will be them that will find you first as soon as you go off the beaten path in any older neighborhood. All it takes is to have your eyes peeled and catch the opportunity by its hardcover as soon as you see it!

The "bouquinistes" selling things for tourists near the Seine seem to have relatively few interesting items and are severely overpriced, on the other hand, so I would suggest to exercise caution with them.

If you are looking for new books, FNAC (as mentioned by other users) may be your best bet among large and modern retail stores. They sell everything from treaties on philosophy and university textbooks to drones to clown costumes.

(Disclaimer: I'm neither Parisian nor French, but I speak the language to a certain extent, and have been on a book hunt in there on several occasions)

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Your best bet to get classics without "wasting" time is to go to the big box stores like FNAC.

You will also get the classics from university libraries near the Sorbonne University, like Librarie de Cluny or Librairie Compagnie.

It can also be fun to browse the different smaller old books (Livres Ancients) stores, you will find the classics in older editions, and might even get a good price (all things considered) on them.

If you feel like it, there are also the Bouquinistes stalls along the river (the green stalls) you still can find the classics there, but you will have to ask or you will spend hours browsing regular stuff.

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    This doesn't really answer the op question in my opinion. He wants nice places with an history and an atmosphere not supermarkets. Classy, historical, nice libraries with specialized employees and great quantity of books actually exist. Most FNAC do not have the half of the classic books you can find in the big classic libraries, really. Also the price of the books is unique here so the new ones all cost the same price, no reason to go to fnac. Gibert is worth it tho. – NanoPish Jul 16 '18 at 15:45
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Over the last few decades, many bookshops have disappeared due to changing trends in the way people buy books (or whether they buy books at all).

Bookshop owners have long complained about the larger stores like Fnac, and then the hypermarkets, which has led to the introduction of the unique price for books (the same edition of a given book must be sold at the same price everywhere). Then Amazon arrived, and again they complained about the free shipping. In the meantime, many have closed or reduced their size a lot. There are still a lot more than in some US cities for instance.

The larger bookshops are probably some of the Fnac stores, like the one in Forum des Halles or that at Montparnasse. The top floor of the Fnac des Ternes has a nice decor, but the part dedicated to books is relatively small.

You also have the large Gibert Joseph and Gibert Jeune on boulevard Saint Michel, though given their position they have a tendency to focus on academic books (and I believe they have reduced in size quite drastically over the years).

Not sure if any of those would qualify for "having an atmosphere".

You can search for "librairie" on Google maps to find more (in French, "librairie" is a bookshop, not a library, which would be a "bibliothèque").

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    This doesn't really answer the op question in my opinion. It is true that libraries disapeared a bit recently, but the majority of the known, classic ones are still there. Fnac is really uninteresting to visit imo, except maybe for history of tehcnology commerce / economy / marketing. – NanoPish Jul 16 '18 at 15:43
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    There is a tendency to close but the situation is by a long way not as bad as you indicate, -1. – Willeke Jul 16 '18 at 15:43
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I love bookshops and will walk in at many just to look around even when I can not speak/read the language.

In Paris, as in France in general, you will find many bookshops.
They all sell classics, often in two different categories of bindings, cheap and classy.

Bookshops mostly mirror the other shops in the area, so in upmarket shopping streets you will find the more fancy, the more expensive, in the areas with the bargain shops you will find the bargain bookshops.
With bookshops you have an extra category. In areas where good books are bought, good bookshops stay alive and give good options. That is near universities and in areas where there are a lot of traditional shops, also very small ones.

While books have fixed prices, the selection a bookshop has in the shop does make a difference. The more expensive shops have many expensive editions and very few of the cheaper ones. While the cheaper shops often exclusively have the pocket editions of the classics as well as reprints which are much cheaper than the first editions have been. The middle selection ones have the whole of the range.

To get the best results on an internet search you will likely need to search in French. You can use an online translating service for reading what you ask as well as the results. But searching in English will get you the results most English speakers want, specially if you are still at home.

  • Pretty good answer, except the "upmarket shopping streets you will find the more fancy, the more expensive, in the areas with the bargain shops you will find the bargain bookshops." imo. This is not accurate at all imo, as the richest neighborhoods != historical / cultural ones very often in Paris. – NanoPish Jul 16 '18 at 15:51
  • You are right, it is not always as simple. I keep my point, next to the expensive clothing shops you will find expensive (but not always good) bookshops. But there are more than just those two categories. – Willeke Jul 16 '18 at 15:56
  • Yes you are right, as the old / ancian bookshops are in rich areas and are very expansive. For the unused / new books it is the same price everywhere tho. – NanoPish Jul 16 '18 at 15:58
  • Same book, same price for new books, but the selection is different in the expensive book shops. Not stocking cheap but having more expensive editions. – Willeke Jul 16 '18 at 16:01
  • True, but for classical books, people buy 'Livre de Poche' (pocket books) most of time I think – NanoPish Jul 16 '18 at 16:04

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