Bookshops of all descriptions seem to be in every second door, and sometimes even in every first door I encounter, on any street, near every school, cafe, a souvenir stall. Antique books’ prices at first glance resemble cell phone numbers. New books may cost a little or a lot, which totally depends on your budget and your desires. If you are a professor in search of a new publication on your subject, presumably you can buy whatever you wish. Students facing exams or ordered so by their instructors, or following their heart’s desire may buy one coveted book and run away, hugging it to their chest. There are plenty of secondhand bookstores for all tastes and budgets where customers happily spend hours browsing or searching or simply scanning the shelves with their eyes.
Several bookstores in the area either sell books in other languages than French, or sell books in English. One can start from Galignani’s which was opened in 1903 or about; it boasts the honor of being the first British books store in Paris. By some accounts it was founded in the 19th century. Not far from it, also on Rue De Rivoli, is W.H. Smith, a solid large store which has an amazing huge choice of magazines besides a large selection of books in English.
When you face Notre Dame, look to your right and below. Shakespeare & Company is not just a bookshop, it arranges many literary events. Rumour has it that since early 20th century it’s been a haven for many writers, and they could even spend a night there if accommodation was needed. From there, walk to Boulevard St. Michel and look for Gilbert & Joseph stores. They are located on the same side as the fountain on Saint Michel, directly opposite Marks & Spencer’s food store.
If you like to browse hoping for a chance find, go to St. Severin church and find The Abbey shop tucked into a side street. This is how I found it: face the main entrance to the church. On your left you should see an eatery called Frogburger, which for anybody but a Frenchman is definitely an unforgettable landmark. To your right there is a tiny street where you will immediately see the Canadian flag and heaps of books. Warning: if you like your bookshelves well organized, do not enter! Better go to W.H.Smith instead. The Abbey deserves a short visit at least. And you will see the magnificent church for free.