Watching The Bookshops Wither And Die

borders_bookshop_closing_down_sale-640x480I’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…


18 responses to “Watching The Bookshops Wither And Die

  1. In Canada, our big chain is Chapters. They hire plenty of people and it’s actually difficult to browse without at least two of the sales staff asking if you need help. Computer terminals in the aisles, all logged on to the store’s website, will tell you whether the book you’re looking for is in stock and if so, exactly where to look for it. There are comfortable chairs placed around the shop if you want to sit down and read for a while, and each of them has a Starbucks inside the store where you can take your purchase and relax with a coffee.
    All this to say that Chapters is more an experience than a mere book store. It’s all about the details, I think.

    • It sounds ideal. I wish there was an equivalent here. Some of the larger stores have a Costa Coffee outlet but that doesn’t justify the price of the books.

      • Well there is still that. And thatis what will eventually, as you say, put the book stores out of business. There does have to be some sort of incentive to bring people in… and I’m afraid the publishers/retailers are going to have to somehow include price in that.

  2. How sad if bookstores disappear. I like going to independent bookstores, and we still have some here. Best of all is the used bookstore where I can (and often do) browse for hours.

  3. It is a shame to see the bookstores dying. We used to have Waldenbooks and a few others that are now long gone. There are a few Borders around, but they are dying quickly. I like Barns & Noble personally and they all have a Starbuck’s inside but they are few and far between. There used to be a Virgin Megastore but it closed as well.

  4. Pingback: Reading. | the beauty of existence

  5. Lovely post. I wish this weren’t happening. You inspired my latest post about reading/my favorite bookstore going out of business. It’s a shame you couldn’t end up on that Local shelf!

  6. Sadly, I can completely relate to your chagrin, having experienced a few very similar situations (nightmares?) myself, albeit on the other side of the Atlantic. Borders (I’m not sure if they had it in the U.K.–was the largest bookstore chain in the U.S.) shutdown all it’s stores within the last few years, unable to compete with Amazon and its loathsome ilk, and I find myself praying that Barnes & Noble doesn’t follow that sad path. I purposely bought a NOOK (their eReader) and continue shopping almost exclusively there for my book obsession with the sole hope that with support it may survive. They were smart to open a leeway into the electronic publishing market, and it’s kept their collective heads above water for now, but I still worry about it’s future, as it’s currently the only large bookstore chain left here, and I would have a nervous breakdown were I to be confronted with no B&N and no replacement haven for fellow bookworms and writers. But I digress. My point is, I feel your pain and I truly am sorry you too are enduring such trying times across the ocean. I wanted to compliment you on the quality of this post, as well. May the god of the Written Word smile upon us all and remove these digital thorns in our sides, such as Amazon, who have good monetary prices but have and likely will cost us much more than money can buy if we don’t support the few good bookstore chains left. Happy reading, writing and blogging from California, and know you and all fellow booknuts will remain close to my heart. 🙂 -Warmest regards, Sean (frosztbyte)

  7. I agree that it’s a very sad thing that the cool bookstores are going the way of the dodo bird. Borders, at one time my favorite, folded a few years ago, and I’m hearing murmurings that the same fate awaits Barnes & Noble. Now that would truly be a sad thing. If I had the wherewithal, I’d open a combination new/used bookstore and cater to all ages and provide coffee, treats, dancing girls, and anything else it would take to encourage people to come in and browse and enjoy. (Well, I might have to re-think the dancing girls…but maybe not!) 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on Living life one word at a time and commented:
    I too am saddened to see local, out of the way bookstores closing here in the US. Yes we can hit any big box or grocery store to grab a book if we choose to. On-line versions are available and have become the norm. But for someone whose passion is to write and read, there is nothing like holding a book in hand. Running a hand over the cover, feeling each page, the scent of newness, is all part of the experience as the words take us to a world yet to be discovered.

    Old bookstores are my favorite. Discovering titles old and new that perhaps are not on a “best seller” list because the masses followed the crowd and said it should be. Unearthing these gems are far more enriching for me than being privy to a great sale on shoes or an article of clothing, that will soon be worn and forgotten. A good story, that captures the heart and mind become a part of you that no material object can match.

    It’s my dream to open a bookstore here in the city I live in, in California. I want it to be small, quaint, a destination people come to find peace in the chaos, if only for a few minutes out of their day. My goal is that it will feature vintage books and those written by self-published authors who don’t have the following, “in’s” or finances to market themselves or their worth as a writer.

    When I have a goal, I fight to make it happen. I’ll let you know when it does, perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to visit one day!

    Happy reading,
    Helen Holdun

  9. They say real books should be replaced by ebooks due to the convenience and economic reasons. I do not know much about the big picture they always say and one day if the end of printed book is inevitable I will be among those people who cry…

    • Please, don’t cry. You know it makes me upset when you do. I don’t think printed books will ever die, just like vinyl records haven’t either. It’s just going to be different, that’s all. The printed book though will always be somewhere but if the bookshops don’t change their tune quickly, you won’t be able to buy them on the high street for much longer.

      • I can not concentrate on ebook as I do with printed book. I have to trace my fingers on the printed words to understand it clearly. I love the feeling of surrounding myself with real books in a store. I don’t like the idea that wonderful places like that will no longer available 😦

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