Patrick Schneebeli, President of the LIBER Association, spotlights a recent initiative from the Swiss book trade: LIBER bookshop vouchers
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has affected the Swiss book industry and authors living and writing in Switzerland, as it did in all European countries. The Swiss Government initially did not consider bookshops essential for the basic supply of the population. The retail book trade was therefore forced to keep shops closed during the country’s first lockdown between March and June 2020. The sector had to absorb a drop in sales during this time, as well as the higher costs for home delivery, while only some businesses were able to negotiate a rebate on the rent they pay for their premises. Authors lost visibility of their books due to closed bookshops, as well as all opportunities for public readings and appearances at festivals.
To counteract these circumstances and bring people back into bookshops after their reopening, as well as stimulate additional sales, the LIBER project was developed. Hadi Barkat, founder-director of Geneva and Basel-based publisher Helvetiq, came up with the idea to create a currency for book purchases: book buyers would purchase vouchers for a certain amount in a crowd-supporting campaign, the nominal value of which would be significantly increased by contributions from the public sector and charitable foundations. Anyone who would pay e.g. CHF 60 should receive a voucher of CHF 100 nominal value to be used as a means of payment for purchases in bookshops. Part of the LIBER project is also the creation of a fund to support events at bookshops with Swiss-based authors.
The associations of the Swiss book industry and authors – LivreSuisse, SBVV, SWIPS, ALESI and A*dS – joined forces to bring the concept to life. Together they managed to raise a total of CHF 565,000 from cantons, municipalities and from public and private foundations to finance the additional nominal value of LIBER vouchers and to cover the campaign’s operating costs.
When LIBER was launched on 28 October 2021, the call for crowd-support met with very positive response: within 30 days a total of CHF 619,000 was raised, contributed by 4,691 people from all parts of Switzerland. LIBER vouchers for CHF 1,011,000 total nominal value could thus be issued: meaning over 1 million CHF of potential sales for Swiss bookshops, just in time for the 2021 Christmas season.
This article was written by Patrick Schneebeli, President of the LIBER Association and Sales Director at Scheidegger & Spiess and Park Books in Zurich.