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Each of the 250 bouquinistes along the Seine is given four “vert wagons” (train-green boxes) by the city of Paris. The catch: These real independent booksellers are allowed only one box of tourist mementos, and the rest must be collectiblep old books, journals, stamps, postcards, paintings, prints, trading cards, and the like. The most coveted spots are awarded based on seniority. Many of the bouquinistes are former professors or journalists and often specialize in a certain genre.

The concessions were implemented by the city of Paris in 1859. The city does collect about 100 Euros a year, and requires lots of red tape before granting a spot.

The term bouquinistes (boo-keen-eest) probably comes from the Dutch word boeckin, meaning “small book.”