A talk with the girls behind the bookshop that take place on social media

Illicit Bookshop is an online-based bookshop that takes shape exclusively on Instagram. Proposing a unique selection of rarities and first editions, during the arch of just one year the founders have created a beautiful archive of precious titles that covers a series of themes and specific literature currents. Going from cyberpunk to gender studies to Italian counter-culture magazines, the Illicit archive is a very good example of the contemporary need for a selection activity inside today’s context of infodemic media and a saturated cultural landscape. 

The work of research done by Illicit Bookshop became a true activity of cultural-filter, having to its core the most noble and famous object for the transmission of knowledge: the book.

William Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Simone Weil, but also Coupland, Gibson, and Guattari to magazines like Frigidaire and Sight and Sound, quality titles and content are matched with editions that are real goodies, street-market rarities carefully collected and within finger’s reach. 

I had occasion to talk with the founders of the project, to let me tell the intentions and the story behind Illicit Bookshop.


How’s Illicit Bookshop born? 

Illicit Bookshop was created by us, Costanza Candeloro and Francesca Ciccone, one year ago circa. We wanted to create a catalog that cannot only be purchased but also easily available, from which everyone can obtain information about specific editions outside of a buying-only process. We decided to create it informally, using our Instagram account also as an archive. 

Creating an independent online bookshop only through Instagram is an innovative idea, or at least is a road less traveled than others. From one side, it carries on a mode of sale through traveling bookshop, form already known in analog times. On the other hand, integrates it with the possibilities given by digital platforms. What prospects do you see for such a model within the editorial industry?

We are interested in the subjection possibilities given by the social media platforms around specific processes. For us, it was important to create an exchange inside a microeconomic dynamic that regards our subjectivities, without necessarily facing an industry. Our perspectives are merely personal and belong to a principle of urgency.

Credits: Michele Zanotti

The selection you propose is very accurate and touches a series of specific themes and literary currents through more or less known titles of the past, some great classics, and other small gems to rediscover. In your Instagram bio, you describe the bookshop with the words “Rarities and Radicalism”. What do you mean by radicality? Is it possible that through a bookshop you can create a specific cultural proposal based on this concept?   

Radicalism for us is not a field of total investigation but includes the interpretative, cultural, or literary mechanisms in which we believe or think to be a real form of critical thinking. We were interested in understanding how fundamental tools to approach reality, in its most complex implications, instead of being within reach of anyone, end up among the “rarities”, among objects – in this case, books – difficult to find.

Always in your bio, there is a link to download the pdf of the text by Brian Martin “Information Liberation” which raises the question of information as a power structure. It is interesting that you put it in the bio as if it were a kind of manifesto that you refer to, giving an almost political connotation to the project. Was that the intention?

Let’s say that if this happened we are pleased, but the main intention was to share that content as much as possible. The book was on sale on Illicit, but why not share the free download version as it is the circulation that interests us?

Are there any titles in your archive that you are particularly attached to?

Let’s say all of it. 

Which direction would you like to give to Illicit Bookshop in the future? 

Moving more and more from the digital to the physical space.

Credits: Michele Zanotti