I’m in a slightly disgruntled mood today. I popped into my local Waterstones, which for readers in other countries is the largest and pretty much only bookshop left in the UK. It’s always been a nice experience, the smell of new books and exotic covers, you can get lost in one for hours.
In this particular local Waterstones, they used to have a Local Interest bookshelf near the front door which included local authors of fiction. It was extremely hard to secure a spot on this coveted shelf and the requirement seemed to be that the story must be set on the Isle of Wight. Coincidentally, my new novel is set on the Isle of Wight. However, to my chagrin I have discovered that this shelf has now been replaced with another Sale shelf instead.
So, I guess my chance has now gone of getting a novel in a the only ‘new books’ bookshop on the island. I suppose I’m not too bothered by this, it would’ve been nice but c’est la vie. What annoys me more is the gradual decline of the only bookshop we now have left in the UK.
I had a look today and instead of putting similar books together in, what is commonly referred to as a category, they have half the shelves in the entire store labelled as Fiction. Just Fiction. You have JK Rowling next to Shakespeare. Categories help a reader to find new books by authors who they don’t know. (you know, like Amazon do!) Does it cost too much resource to divide up the books by category rather than them being presented in one big alphabetical order?
I know it’s a petty reason for my strop but it’s yet another example of how the only bookshop left in the UK is not supporting the readers of the UK, or the writers of the UK. Why will readers continue to shop there? A smell of books?
They’re already more expensive than Amazon, their staff don’t help you and you can’t find other books which you may like. On Amazon you have all of this and you don’t even have to leave home. Is the only advantage of Waterstones the fact that it’s next door to Boots?
My prediction is that they will disappear within the next five years unless something dramatically changes to their entire operating model. They already make a loss and are being kept alive by a Russian billionaire. What are they doing about it?
If they do go then there’ll be no more bookshops in the UK. (I know you may get some independents but not enough to be speaking about) It’s going to be a sad day when that happens but, as with music and video stores, is it inevitable? I hope not. I hope there’s a way that they can truly add value to the reader and provide an experience which can’t be replicated online. Hmmm…