Thursday, 31 March 2011

'The book chain is dead; long live the book shop!'

When my local Borders store in Kingston on Thames closed, I was more sad than an individual aught to be over the closure of a bookshop. The thing was, that bookshop had become an integrated part of our family routine; a weekend pleasure that all of us looked forward to.

Little did I really understand at that moment, it was the very first death knell of the superstore book chains. I hadn't even heard of a Kindle six months ago, not alone did I realise how the world was on the cusp of a reading revolution. Curiously, it just so happened that I read an article in 'The Times' about writers publishing their work onto this Kindle malarkey. Well, hey, I thought - that sounds a little radical, but I like it - and so I set about uploading my first e-book, thinking that it would be a weird little eccentricity.

Then BOOM. e-books and Kindles in particular hit the Christmas market and all at once, like a house of cards, the mainstay, superstore book chains started to wobble. Increasingly I saw newsflash after newsflash of Borders stores closing across the States and here our very own superstore bookchain, 'Waterstones' is having a serious wobble and everyone is watching with bated breath, not entirely hopeful it will survive. Where after all would us 'real' book lovers still purchase our beloved 3 for 2 paperbacks?

Now rather than lamenting this, I have been gripped by a sudden excitement, what if a result of the closing of the book superstore, we saw the mass Resurrection of the indie bookshop? As e-books become an increasingly wide form, maybe even the 'norm (and I tell you, I am now a complete convert to the Kindle) 'Real' paperbacks will become like scare and beautiful treasures, found in little havens of literary wonderfulness. The return of the indie bookstore would be a triumph, books becoming once more precious and beautiful objects; the actual store a place to spend indulgent afternoons, drinking coffee out of miss matched mugs, ordering books only later to collect them wrapped in brown paper and string, talking to the staff who are like an extended family, meeting for poetry readings and children's readings.

So , I hear you say, that is all well and good but isn't the flaw in this argument that 'real' books are dying and that your comments about e-books prove this. I don't agree with this linear logic. I will not read less paperbacks, I will just read more e-books. I can never imagine giving up the intense pleasure of handling, opening and reading a paperback; stroking the cover lovingly. So let's raise a salute 'The Chain Bookshop is dead, long live the Indie Bookshop'


  1. Katie, I could not agree more. I don't even own an e-reader. Every time I convince myself to get one, I then re-calculate how many actual (paperback) print books I could buy in the price of the e-reader, and that always deters me from buying one. However, I'm not being negating the convenience of an e-reader, by any means. They are incredibly convenient, and super-light to carry as well.

    But that being said, an e-book will never EVER replace the written word. There is something about holding that book, flipping through the pages, feeling it unfold in your hands that could never be replaced by anything plastic. So indeed, let us celebrate the Bookshop. Indie (yay) or otherwise...may libraries and bookshops stay forever flourishing, and literature prevail infinitely! :D


  2. Thanks for your comment Hira, I completely share your love of the paperback. :-)

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