The demise of the local bookshop

Sometimes modern society leaves me ashamed to be part of it. Ashamed and disappointed and really, really annoyed. Really annoyed because, like many people, it has sucked me in to its world of consumerism and mass-marketing. I’m talking about books – and if you want to see the article that sparked my fury click here. It is an article from the Book Blog of The Guardian which discusses the increasing pressure on publishing houses to settle for supermarket deals on formulaic books instead of seeking out and nurturing promising talent from undiscovered, unique writers who are telling a different story than everyone else.

It’s the same for independent book sellers – what with supermarkets now doing “two for £5” deals on books and Amazon consistently selling everything, particularly books, at the lowest possible prices it is impossible for anyone even attempting to sell books at their “recommended retail price” to find enough customers to keep them afloat. It’s a shame, because as a society we are disconnecting ourselves from the arts. I don’t mean that no one’s reading or listening to music any more – far from it – it is the way in which we are doing it….

We’re not going browsing in bookshops any more – savouring the distinctive smell only books can have or marvelling over the sheer number of books it stocks instead we’re wandering round Sainsbury’s or wherever and chucking “the latest bestseller” on top of our weekly shop or possibly worse, sitting at home and ordering books to be delivered to our front doors at the click of a mouse. I’m guilty of it, you’re probably guilty of it, we’re all guilty of it! Because it’s easy and lazy and doesn’t require the effort of leaving the house to go out and find a book shop that you’ll go into thinking “I guarantee I can get every single book in here cheaper on Amazon”.

I’m not going to lie – you probably can. But you know what you don’t get with Amazon? You don’t get to actually hold the book you want to buy, to inhale the fresh smell only a brilliant novel can have, to flick through the pages for no apparent reason other than the fact that you can. Because the book is physically there in front of you. If you’re lucky you might even get a really friendly bookseller who is happy to recommend books to you that they will have actually read because they are a bookseller and books are their passion. They’re not a robot recommending books to you based on books you’ve “previously bought” or because it’s what everyone else is reading. 

Phew. That was intense. But let’s just go back to books for just one more minute. Have you ever stopped to think what it would be like if you gathered together every single printed book that exists in the world right now – in every language and every edition – and how many words and stories and morals and struggles and people you would have there in that room with you? You wouldn’t be able to comprehend it. That is what is so wonderful about literature – whatever they do with it, however they market it, whatever form they put it in be it as printed copies or e-books or electronic messages programmed into our brains (give it a few years, I’m sure we’ll get there) people will never stop reading – because people will never stop writing. There, I’ve said all that I wanted to say.


10 thoughts on “The demise of the local bookshop

  1. I think the loss of small businesses is a shame. But, to be honest, after hearing some insider information about Barnes and Noble, I don’t think the loss of large booksellers is a shame. They’re incredibly wasteful and destroy stock that doesn’t sell. They can’t donate–it’s horrible.

    In any case, I use the library and don’t buy books unless they’re second hand. Why? Because they’re just too expensive.

  2. I know exactly what you mean about the smell of bookshops and the books themselves. There is something special about books, especially old ones. I have a copy of Jane Eyre that has been handed down from friends of the family, and I love the fabric cover with an imprinted pattern on it almost as much as the actual words!

    I love your blog! Thanks so much for commenting on mine!

  3. Well said, I love nothing more than a good route in a book shop. I really can’t cope with Amazon etc as I need to flip through the books and get a feel for them – don’t even mention Kindle too me!

  4. Ah, so much here that’s close to my heart: the demise of book shops; the effect of supermarkets and Amazon driving what is happening in publishing now; the sensory and sociable experience of small, independent bookshops, AND those iconic penguin book spines. This post absolutely illustrates why your decision to change the direction of your blog is the right thing for you to have done. Your writing is passionate and persuasive – even if you are preaching to the converted in my case. I’ve just had a look through your most recent posts too – my exams are finally OVER and now I have time to do some catching up – I love your knitting as well as the idea of the comfort of curling up with a ball of wool. Yes, that’s exactly what this weather demands! However, mostly what I’m really enjoying is your writing. You say that the reason you started your blog is because you ‘love to write. I have to say – that’s entirely clear to your readers.

  5. This is not the first time I’m saying (writing) this and I’m guessing it won’t be the last: I agree with every single word Roz wrote. 🙂

    Alexandra, your writing is incredible, and you are absolutely spot on. It pains me, too, to see what this “use and lose” attitude is doing to our arts and culture, and the way we consume it.

    Your blog is quite the joy to read through.

  6. YES my first fashion related twitter follower!! I am now following you as well 🙂 And hopefully your “ill be there in spirit” will be vivid with all the posting I’m going to do! You must come to NY some day. And I can’t wait to knit! There’s a knitting shop on my street 🙂

    And I thought you might like the knitwear post! I think I may try to go a more sculptural direction for my knitwear class in the spring.

  7. Haha yep!! So excited. I began knitting it last night, should go fairly quickly! I need to pick up another ball though, I only bought 2 cause I wasn’t sure what it was going to become.

  8. I read every word of this post, Alexandra, and couldn’t agree with you more. I had just come to say thank you for your comment (and while I’m often shooting guys, I realised when you said that that probably the reason there isn’t more male streetstyle is – no one ever comments, or rarely, so – I can’t speak for everyone – but it gives ‘one’ the feeling that people don’t like it – people, that is, being female bloggers).

    But then I forgot why I came here when I got absorbed in your post. I didn’t realise you had changed directions – and I’m reading these other comments and agree with Roz – I’m feeling that way, too. There is so much more to life – and more that I’m interested in – than simply fashion. It was only random that I got sucked into it, thru streetstyle, but I don’t care about the ‘industry’ – enough press day invites – I just like charting social trends photographically.

    But what I like more than that is curling up with a good book! That’s why I love the Hay Festival with such a passion. My next post I’m dedicating to you: it will be themed with only photos of people reading real – i.e. made of paper – books.

    Now I”m really curious about the knitwear post! And I’ve put you on my blog roll: shame on me for not having you up there sooner – I guess I just put up people who asked.

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