Wednesday 12 November 2014

Saving the ocelot

My favourite local bookshop has gone into insolvency. I've only written about the place once, which is odd because I go there a lot. It's an ambitious project – a smartly designed bricks-and-mortar store with an outstanding selection of titles, apparently excellent coffee, events, a blog, and an online store of its own. I'm talking about ocelot on Brunnenstraße, obviously. Owner Frithjof Klepp set out to make his shop stand out, and he bet big. That design didn't come cheap, and nor did the custom-made online shop. Unfortunately, it seems that extra costs for the website and unforeseen sickness pay blew the budget.

But this wouldn't be Berlin if insolvency were a genuine nail in the coffin of culture. Look at the Suhrkamp publishing house, which opened insolvency proceedings in May of last year and is still going strong. Even the city's new airport is bankrupt before the first plane has ever landed there. Unlike BER, Klepp does have a business plan. ocelot will continue trading and is looking for investors.

If you're in Berlin, the best way to support this excellent bookshop is to go in and buy books. This coming Saturday there are two special projects going on, though – this is a place with a lot of loyal fans. One plan is a flashmob: you can print out an ocelot mask and meet like-minded book-lovers across the road at 4 p.m. to descend on the shop and prowl around, before buying a book. If you're not the kind of person who likes to wear animal masks on public thoroughfares, you can also just turn up at any time on Saturday, get your picture taken and uploaded to this as-yet empty site in support of the place (and presumably buy a book). They explain it better on this Facebook event page.

If you're not in Berlin but you are in Germany and you like ordering books online, you can use their website to do so, with free delivery. And I believe they're planning to add international deliveries at some point – which would be an excellent way to get hold of German books when you live outside the German-speaking world, don't you agree?

It seems a little odd that so many people would rally around one particular bookshop when all of them have it tough. It feels like favouritism, in a way. But I have to say that ocelot is a very special bookshop and it would hurt if it had to close down. Maybe it's the enthusiasm the place radiates, the love it seems to give back. Pop in and buy a book, why don't you? Every little helps.

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