Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Independent bookshops - how can they survive?

I've just had some very sad news: my nearest independent bookshop is about to close. The struggle to survive in the High Street, against the competition of the big bookselling chains, supermarkets and of course internet sites like Amazon, together with the rising cost of rates on shop premises, has finally proved too much - and like so many others nationwide, they've had no alternative but to give up.

This is sad for local book buyers who'd like to buy from a shop where personal attention and individual recommendations still count for something - and even sadder for local authors! The manager of this little shop supported me all the way - gave me a beautiful window display when my books were published, together with signs pointing out that I was a local author, and then stocked signed copies of the books and recommended them to customers. It's difficult to get that kind of support from the big chains: they're tied into deals agreed by their head offices and if you're not a bestseller or a celebrity it's hard to get their interest.

I'm going to miss the shop terribly, and will cherish the photos I have, like this one, of their shop window displaying my first two books. I'll miss popping in to sign books, chat about how they're selling, and to buy books myself so that the relationship worked both ways. I know the loss of the shop is going to make a difference to my sales as well as to the community.
So if there's an independent bookshop in your area, don't wait till it's forced to close and then realise what you're missing! Support them, buy all your books there - browse around the shelves and enjoy the atmosphere of a real bookshop before it's too late.
Of course, we all get tempted by a bargain, but the massive discounting that's been going on since book prices stopped being fixed only puts more money in the pockets of the big supermarkets and chains. If you're a writer yourself, or if you're just a book lover who doesn't like the whole publishing industry being controlled by two giant retailers - there's only one way we can do our bit to try to change things. I only wish I'd done more, while I had the chance.


  1. Sadly it's not just bookshops, all the independant retailers - the ones who give our hight streets their individuality - are being forced out by the big boys. I don't think the current economic climate's going to help matters - more customers looking for even bigger discounts, I'm afraid.

  2. You're so right, Suzanne. This (the bookshop closing) has made me think a lot more about the cavalier way I treat our local shops (ie -mainly only use them when I run out of something, otherwise do the whole shop at nearest Tesco). It's hard not to let our lifestyles dictate the priority in all this, though, however much we might wish otherwise.

  3. Sorry to hear about your bookshop. It's sad to see another one go to the wall. We lost our last independant book shop some time ago. But like Suzanne said, it's not just bookshops. We have a wonderful little (and I mean little) Italian Wine Cellar that I love. It doesn't sell a lot but what it does sell is really good. I do try and buy things from there but sometimes it's much cheaper to go elsewhere. It's the way of the world I guess.
    Still sad though.

  4. I agree. It's a wake-up call to all of us to try (when we can afford it) to support the little local shops.

  5. I saw you on Gonna Be's so I thought I'd pop over and say 'Hi'. Welcome to the Land of Blog!

  6. Thanks, Pat, and thanks for visiting.

    And what do you know - I've now got two Followers!! How exciting: and what a responsibility ... I now have to try to write interesting posts!