Saturday, March 22, 2008


Saturday's Western Morning News, our excellent west country daily, has some interesting articles and although the lead announced that crime in Devon and Cornwall had risen by double the national average since 1997 I was drawn to a story on page 9.

I had been saddened on my last visit to Ashburton a few weeks ago to see that The Bookshelf had closed. Today we bought the Western Morning News in the newsagents a few doors away from the empty shop and later read the story on page 9.
"Free-for-all on Internet sealed fate of bookshop" was the headline and Carole Lewis, who had run the independent bookseller for 22 years, explained that cut price competition and the Internet had forced her to close her business.
She said that "independent bookselling is more of a hobby than a living these days" , and that "five small independent booksellers have closed the South West since January".
I felt a distinct feeling of guilt charged with buying books on the internet, of googling for information instead of buying reference books, and of picking up cheap offers in supermarkets.
I will miss going in to The Bookshelf and now wish I had spent more money there.
Can the small independent bookseller survive or have we by our own actions destroyed a fine institution?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a pity, isn't it - in some ways, though, the internet must have helped, because I am struck with how often when I buy an old or second hand book via Abe or Amazon, it is actually posted to me from a local and/or second-hand bookshop in a small town or village somewhere.
I'd venture to suggest that it is the ending of the National Net Book Agreement that has done more to kill off the independent bookshop than the Internet.
The internet makes it easier for a small business to be in touch with its customers, for example I posted a couple of times about the UK independent booksellers' group aggregate website, which is a great idea but sadly each time I looked it seemed as if not a huge number of booksellers had joined it. (One that has joined is the Chipping Norton bookshop loved by my dad, owned by Polly Jaffe and her husband Patrick whose surname I can't recall for the moment).

3:31 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I had forgotten The National Net Book Agreement the ending of which small booksellers said would be devastating at the time.
Perhaps people who buy old or second hand books are more discerning, but new book purchasers have things made so easy for them by Amazon etc or the supermarkets that it must be depressing to own a bookshop and do your grocery shopping in a Sainsbury.

7:33 AM  

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