Rosebud Bookstore has been a popular pop-up chain in Helsinki for years, but last month it opened a new store on the campus of the University of Helsinki. At 14,000 sq. ft., the store is the largest in Finland and is among the largest in the Nordic countries. “We have two kilometers of shelving, and will offer 50,000 titles when we are fully stocked,” said Hannu Paloviita, CEO of Rosebud. Paloviita is a well-known figure in Helsinki’s arts circles as the original founder of Like publishing house, now owned by Ottava, and as a programmer of the Helsinki Literary Festival.
The store offers a broad selection of books, in Finnish as well as English, with a focus on hard-to-find nonfiction titles in sciences and the humanities. “Since this store is part of the university, we want to be able to cater to the academic community,” said store manager and book buyer Petra Kakko. “We focus primarily on stocking small-press books and aim to have at least one copy of almost every book published in Finland.”
Like stores in North America, many of the shelves are on wheels, and there is a dedicated space for author events and presentations, with room for 75 people. There is also a dedicated children’s book area, which is run by Paloviita’s daughter Aino Torttila.
Finland is known as a strong book market relative to its modest population of 5.5 million people, with sales of more than half a billion euros a year. In 2020, the country saw trade book sales jump 12% compared with 2019, according to the Finnish Literary Exchange. This was led by an 89% increase in e-book sales. Lockdowns resulted in a more modest 2% rise in print book sales.
Despite the Finns’ famous passion for reading, bookstores in Finland have been on the decline, falling from 329 stores in 1996 to 270 in 2009, to 146 today.
The new store makes for a total of seven Rosebud outlets, with six in Helsinki and one in Kuopio. In all, there have been 60 different locations in the course of the chain’s history, most of them pop-ups. While the name of the chain is inspired by Citizen Kane, of course, the new location has its own nickname, Sivullinnen, which means “outsider” in English. “It is inspired by Camus’s novel of the same name, L’étranger,” said Paloviita. When asked why, he replied, “Because that is what we are as booksellers, as readers, and as writers—we are outsiders.”