Dispozitiv Books, Lampoon

Dispozitiv Books, Bucharest. Upon a realization that Romania did not have fair-footing in reading materials

Laura Naum and Petrică Mogos, «naming the store ‘Dispozitiv’ was a pun. We perceive the bookstore as a device, channeling books and magazines to the people in the age of digital reading»

Dispozitiv Books in Bucharest

Living in a twenty-five square meter space in the heart of Bucharest is Dispozitiv Books. A bookstore in categorization of genres in English art books and magazines co-existing as a publishing label. Founded by thirty-one-year-old Laura Naum and twenty-eight-year-old Petrică Mogos, Dispozitiv books was a mutual-goal. Graduates from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Naum in cultural economics and entrepreneurship and Mogos in sociology in arts, the partners came to a decision to birth the independent-bookstore in May, 2019. «We intended on starting a bookstore, but were opposed with ordeals. There were, in fact, complications in the bureaucracy to setting up a store».

Not certain if they could survive as a stand-alone bookseller specializing in literature, the partners diverted to founding Kajet upon the completion of their studies in Amsterdam. The word ‘Kajet’ means notebook. The letter’s ‘K’ and ‘J’ replace the derivation of the word in French, ‘cahier’ and in Romanian, ‘caiet’. The ethos of Kajet reflects this. «It is a collection of texts and thoughts. An assemblage of narratives once forgotten. It is therefore a journal on Eastern European encounters».

Romania’s lack of fair-footing in reading materials

Written in English, there are a multitude of topics each issue focuses on – struggles, photography, academic articles made for accessibility in consumption. «It began as a means of explanation for those who had inquiries on Eastern European culture and politics in Romania. We wanted a way to shed light on the community. That is why the first issue was titled ‘On Communities’». Their vehemence that laid in independent-magazines and books therefore stimulated the ideation of Dispozitiv into a concept. «Dispozitiv came from our passion for written materials».

Upon a realization that Romania did not have fair-footing in reading materials that they admired, they pushed towards signifying their presence in the locality. «Romania does not have literature that is present in sections of the European Union. It was an opportunity to fill in the gaps that exist when it comes to reading». Starting out with artist Alin Cincă, who assisted in the design of their logo, three individuals took care of the space. Cincă did leave the space, while Naum and Mogos remained.

The heart of Dispozitiv is an echo to independent-bookstores across Europe like Under the Cover in Lisbon, Athenaeum in Amsterdam and Do You Read Me?! in Berlin, where there is an abundance of reading materials carried in the stores. «During our travels, we would visit bookstores. Magazines and books would fill our suitcases each time we returned – either for ourselves or for our friends».

Dispozitiv Books inception

Steering on that, the partners founded the bookstore three years after establishing their magazine. «We began with a focus on magazines, but they were not being valued. It was and still is a fast-moving commodity as issues from publications are released one after the other. We do not believe that to be the case, as magazines hold value, encapsulating a moment in time. We therefore made the decision to carry art books to eke out in the first six months upon starting out».

Carrying books on art, sociology, politics, economics as well as geo-political issues in languages was a necessity. Subject matter also focuses on Marxist theories and works in philosophy. «We adjusted our in-store program to what people needed and wanted while carrying what we liked». Carrying magazines like Gentlewoman, Dazed and Fantastic Man, Dispozitiv sells their self-published magazine, Kajet alongside MacGuffin, Purple and 032c to name a few. Beginning their rove into the book business, initiating it with Kajet, the partners grew their pool of contacts in the publishing world on a scale. «We got to gauge how a bookstore functioned when we inaugurated ‘Kajet’. We managed the distribution of the magazine ourselves. Also, we applied what we learnt, as business owners from the other side of the table».

The name ‘Dispozitiv’ in the Romanian language translates to device – a play on words to how they act. An alternative device to disseminating reading material as a means of education to the scene. «Naming the store ‘Dispozitiv’ was a pun. We perceive the bookstore as a device, channeling books and magazines to the people in the age of digital reading, where e-books have become the norm». Further, there are drawn eyes in the letters of the logo that reiterate the intent of Dispozitiv acting as a device that urges reading, to place one’s eyes on books.

Lampoon, A bookstore in twenty-five square meter space in the heart of Bucharest
A bookstore in twenty-five square meter space in the heart of Bucharest

Lampoon review: Dispozitiv Books’ location in Bucharest

Overseeing Dispozitiv and Kajet, Naum and Mogos split roles, managing sections of the business they are acquainted with. Naum handles business related matters, while Mogos delves in curating and deciding the look and feel of the store. Titles brought in are a decision made in unison. «We are applying what we have consumed in our time at university to the store». Their settlement in Strada Popa Tatu is a vacuum that is of significance to the city of Bucharest. «Prior to the opening, we scouted locations in areas we liked. It was by chance when we came across a space in ruin. Walls were yellow, interiors falling apart. The owner lived across the lot and a passerby had introduced us. We moved into the store a month and a half after renovating and refurbishing the space».

The space was once a dentist’s office, repurposed into a bar. With a hole in the wall resembling a makeshift drive through window, coffee stains soaked the wood counter from years of use. «It used to be a low-budget drive through where the bar once sold coffee. We adored the space for its history». The foundation of the building Dispozitiv resides in took place in 1947. It is a building belonging to the owner’s grandfather who was an archeologist that founded museums across Romania. «The building is dear and has an air to it. We are in luck as the façade has not changed».

Situated minutes away from the city center, Dispozitiv is at distance to Cișmigiu Park. On its opening, patrons from the parade, that coincided with the visit from the Pope, brimmed the store. Patrons who come in are unaware of the variety of reading material offered. The exchange of ideas and knowledge with its customers is, in fact, the basis of operations. Subsisting as the sole distributors for art books and magazines, alongside chain-bookstores, the partners state, «the titles we carry in store are not available at other book retailers in Bucharest».

Books selection at Dispozitiv Books

As one of the remaining independent-bookstore, the partners believe they are responsible to carry books and magazines to uplift, educate and champion Bucharest. «There was another independent-bookstore, but a chain took over it». In the allotted space, the bookstore operates in under fifteen-square-meters, the rest used for storage. «There are plans on expanding the space, but there are structural issues that we need to cross over first». The limits of fifteen-square-meters allows for customers to arrive at a magazine or a book in a brief period of time. «It is a paradox. If the store was scattered across three rooms, it would be arduous for an individual to seek items. While, in the case as it is now, we cannot expand our library».

A form of manipulation to urge customers unto self-discovery, seeking out the literature in store, books and magazines are presented with their covers up-front, facing the viewer. Laying on custom-made shelves, the books and magazines speak for itself. «The cover should speak for the content of the magazine or book. Graphic design is a magnified aspect to urging a sale». Further, changing the layout of the store on occasion enables the owners to create space for books and movement in the store. Alongside carrying art books and magazines, there is also a section of non-fiction novels on critical-theory and novels on politics in language that customers can gauge.

Uplifting Romanian authors and publishers

Hosting Romanian publications and self-published magazines and books from the creative scene in the area, Dispozitiv’s mission is to uplift Romanian authors and publishers, open to forms of literature. Customers who walk in, vary in age and gender, but the enthusiasm for customers who come in for the first time remains. «There are individuals who come in who are in their thirties, who are fond of the cultural area here. There is no one portrait to describe our customers». They enquire on which titles to consume or for titles to be brought in. «We do not underestimate them».

Their work in publishing has prompted art books. Titles entail In the Natural Landscape the Human is an Intruder and Camera Archiva. The former is on artist Vlad Nancă’s artwork and the processes of it – a behind the scenes concept that explains the ins and outs of the work. «The act of writing about art makes it accessible. There are opinions, in fact, that allow the understanding of art». While, the latter revolves around Romania’s communist theories and their works overtime, printed in colors to resemble a kaleidoscope.

Moreover, there are prints sold in stores, with merchandise alongside the books and magazines. «The prints come in three or four colors, making it look like a mistake». Dispozitiv Books looks to expand their presence in Bucharest. As they consider possible locations for their store, they are in the works of producing and publishing the future issues of Kajet and other Romanian based artists’ works in magazine or book format.

Dispozitiv Books

Strada Popa Tatu 20, București, Romania

Dispozitiv Books is a bookstore in categorization of genres in English art books and magazines, co-existing as a publishing label.

Pravin Nair

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.