CULTURE

New bookstore with heady mix of stimulants

A new bookstore with an innovative approach has joined the increasingly varied Athens bookstore scene. At Books ‘n’ Coffee on Amalias Street opposite Hadrian’s Arch, the heady mix of stimulants ranges further than the promise of its name. Discussions and book presentations are already starting to attract customers interested in cultural pursuits, and bookseller Michalis Panas has had touch screens fitted into the coffee tables. When the software is up and running, customers will be able to read an electronic magazine about a variety of publications and events. Different icons on the screen will provide access to programs for the cinema, theater and Athens Concert Hall, for instance. There’ll be titles of the latest books and reviews, and a diary of cultural events, Panas told Kathimerini English Edition. A meeting place The intention was always to do more than sell books. Panas also envisions his store as a cultural venue where like-minded people can relax over coffee in a congenial environment and bring themselves up to date on events of interest to them. The store opened about seven months ago as a book shop, but closed in August for work on the cafe section, reopening in its present form a month and a half ago. Ideally located to attract visitors to Athens, the shop has a useful selection of guidebooks and related works, prominently displayed. The main stock emphasizes literature, archaeology and children’s books, and there is a strong collection of cinema titles. On the cafe wall a series of photographs of great moments in film attest to the owner’s fondness for cinema. When I started out as a journalist, I did film reviews for magazines, he says. Some of the events he has held reflect that interest too. He organized a screening of the films that took the first three prizes at the Drama Film Festival, followed by a discussion among their directors about the prospects for Greek cinema. There was a presentation of Jean Mitry’s book, Rhythm and Music in the Cinema, and Panas has talked to Thessaloniki Film Festival Director Michel Dimopoulos about presenting the festival’s publications. The response Getting known is the next step. Tourists in the area can hardly fail to notice the shop, and a certain amount of custom should come from workers at banks and other businesses in the neighborhood who love books or just want to spend their coffee break in pleasant surroundings. Panas is especially interested in attracting writers and artists. He himself is involved in the literary world at other levels, writing for various magazines, including To Trito Mati. Customers are starting to come. They find out about us from the press, and people in the film world know me, he says. Selling books is a pleasant occupation but it isn’t always easy. It’s a fact that Greeks read less than other Europeans do, as Panas comments. Reading is a much more active pursuit than television or a CD. For example, the CDs we have sell much better than books. A CD doesnot demand any active participation but books do. Books are promoted more intensively than they once were in the media, Panas concedes. As he points out, the number of pages the daily press devotes to books has multiplied in recent years. And the National Book Center (EKEBI) has contributed by promoting literature and creating new material. This year, for example, says Panas, there have been celebrations in honor of the writer Alekos Papadiamantis. EKEBI created material in connection with those events which can be used in exhibitions in bookshops. Books ‘n’ Coffee promises a fresh take on the local book scene. to step outside the measures of the world;