The big disappointment of this visit to Helsinki is the state of the Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (Academic Bookshop) located at Pohjoisesplanadi 39, Finland’s largest bookstore and a prominent feature of the city centre. The entire third floor is no longer in use, and of the considerable stock once offered there, only a small remnant has been moved to lower floors. The once vast selection of French literature on sale on the first floor is now a small amount of books unceremoniously dumped into a bin. There’s a blowout sale currently going on that bears the rather ominous Finnish name loppuale. None of the staff is willing to comment on developments.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, as this is happening to large bookstores all over the world. My own local bookshops in Cluj seem to have decided that hipster accoutrement (ECM on vinyl, fancy Japanese-imported tea sets, organic biscuits) is a more dependable source of profit than books. With regard to Akateeminen Kirjakauppa, it must have cost a lot of money to keep such a large store running, and I’m sure many would-be customers were avoiding Finland’s very high prices for foreign books by ordering over the internet from Amazon or the like. When I was spending a significant amount of time in Helsinki in 2006–2010, I visited this shop at least three days a week, but I can count the number of books I ever bought there on one hand.
The only bright side is that after putting off buying the Finnish etymological dictionary Suomen sanojen alkuperä at the usual “Sale!” price of 120€, I managed to buy all three volumes today for just 40€ total.