In the first of a new series of articles from around Europe, provided in partnership with Biblekiosk, Els de Jong-van Gurp, Managing Director BCB*, meets Jean-Luc Cosnard, board member of ALEPEF, to discover more about the Christian book trade in France.
Tell me a little about your country, France?
France has 60 million inhabitants, and the language is French. 2% of the population is Protestant, Evangelicals included. The left-wing socialist party currently reigns with President François Hollande, and by a large majority in Congress (the National Assembly and Senate) and in the different regions.
The economy was already weak due to the global economic crisis, but is currently becoming weaker and weaker. Islam is growing in our country, but still there are more Christians, the Roman Catholic Church included.
How many publishers are there in France?
There are hundreds of publishers and most of them are small. There are only about 10 to 15 Christian publishers. Less than five of them are quite large in relation to the other publishers in our country. These are not Catholic, but
What is the relationship between the Catholic and Protestant publishers and bookstores?
The relationship is fine. We even have the same (Catholic) distributor for both the Catholic and Protestant publishers.
How many Christian bookstores are there in France?
That’s hard to say. There are about 40 Protestant bookstores, mainly in large cities as Paris, Lyon, Metz, Marseille.
You have been president of ALEPEF, the trade association in France.
I have a publishing company myself. In addition, I’m still on the board of ALEPEF, though I am indeed no longer president. ALEPEF is an organization for publishers and bookstores and has about 50 members. What we mainly do is provide information, organize training, advice about laws and such things.
What are the main projects the organisation is working on at the moment?
In March, and around the Paris Book Fair, we launch ‘Book of the Month’. The idea behind this project is to have churches, pastors and bookstores get in contact with each other and to convince them of the importance of books. The ‘Book of the Month’ is a new project and it is too early yet to say anything about the success of this initiative.
It is however a positive move that connections are being established between local churches and bookstores, and that booksellers have the opportunity to broadcast the importance of talking about books from pulpits in churches. The influence of predecessors is important in the promotion of books and authors. The initiative is approved and supported by the CNEF, formerly the Evangelical Alliance, which is the national committee for evangelicals in France. Another important activity is our presence at a large exhibition in Paris in September, the Protestants en Fête, which 30,000 people attended in 2013.
What is currently the biggest challenge for ALEPEF?
Our biggest challenge is to help small bookshops and publishers in their business and to offer them expertise for them to survive.
And what is the greatest success of your organization?
Unity and harmony between all participants is our greatest success. And that is quite something in France!
Why? Can you explain that?
There was a time when booksellers and publishers did not collaborate with each other. Now they are able to work together, communicate with each other and respect each other’s arguments. That we may see as directed by God. Booksellers and publishers now are pleased to work together and to develop joint initiatives.
What are your dreams for ALEPEF?
I would like to see the impact of ALEPEF increased and that the number of members will increase fivefold. Our nationwide influence and the importance of our organization needs to be increased through the services we offer. We must ensure that those services fit the publishing and bookselling world.
What would you like to say to your Dutch colleagues?
We, as French booksellers and publishers, dream to have your world of Protestantism and Protestant Christians. We also would like to operate in such a professional Christian book market as you have in the Netherlands.
*BCB is the Dutch association of Christian publishers and booksellers.
March 1st, 2015 - Posted & Written by Together Magazine