Death of the Bookshop
So, the death of the bookshop is apparently upon us. Wave goodbye to lavish little shops, books and posters of books and book presentations and, of course, the bookseller who’s just looking to spark up an intimate conversation on the merits of transcendental meditation. Good. I was never much of a bookshop person. I’ve bought most of my books from charity shops because I could never afford brand new books. I also read a lot of books by borrowing from libraries and, with the world now overrun by the internet, I purchase reduced books online or read them when someone’s posted it on their site. Of course I will buy a book at full price if I absolutely believe in it. But when I was growing up I had to find the most affordable way of gaining knowledge.
The romantic myth goes that people wander into bookshops to read and discover new and exciting books. I don’t know, I was taught that it’s not good to stare. I am possessed by horrible memories of newsagents barking “Are you buying that or not?” at me and filling me with guilt. I feel awkward bending back the cover of a book I probably won’t buy because it’s severely out of my budget. If I sit down I feel strange, a recluse spending time in a bookshop, far too aware of myself to enjoy the actual book. And I don’t want a coffee with my book thank you very much as I’m not a big fan of theme park bookshops.
But what I will definitely miss is the second-hand/specialist bookshop, you know the smelly little dumps where you go to hide from the world. The kind of place I dream of owning one day, where I can sit and read and think. Now that is excitement an ebook or website cannot possibly replicate. Digging around on dirty old shelves or in bargain bins, searching desperately for anything that might be an incredible find, fingering old pages, charmed by creased corners and battered covers. There’s real pride that comes from coming away with a book from a place such as that. Pride that you don’t get after clicking ‘Add to Basket’ on Amazon. Not unless the content editor has made a terrible mistake and the pricing of that Dostoyevsky collection is a fraction of the price it should be.
There lies the problem with technological advance. You tend to lose character. Something that bookshop chains also fail to grasp. New and shiny and well-reviewed doesn’t necessarily mean anything apart from a decent beach read. I’m sure my kind of bookshop will be around for awhile yet, hopefully long enough for me to own and retire in one.