I not only love writing my own books, I also love reading those written by others. I’m an avid, compulsive, obsessive reader. I’m never without a reading-in-progress book – and I have a to-be-read pile of tower block proportions. I’ve loved reading since before I could actually read – when I just made up a story to go with the pictures on the page. Over the years books have informed, comforted and inspired me. I can’t imagine a life without them – and I don’t want to imagine a life without bookshops.
Full disclosure: I own and use an e-reader and therefore I buy some books online. There’s a convenience, especially when travelling, to having a well-stocked e-reader in my bag. BUT nothing beats the real thing – being able to hold, feel and turn the pages of an actual book. Therefore I continue to be a regular, real world, bookshop customer.
Indeed, I like bookshops so much that I once worked in and lived above my ‘very own’ one. Okay, it was only for a fortnight and I didn’t actually own it, but I got to pretend – and it was a wonderful experience. Along with my husband, I’d applied to do a fortnight stint at the Open Book second-hand bookshop in Wigtown – otherwise known as Scotland’s Book Town. And the Wigtown Festival Company, the organisers of this amazing ‘run your own bookshop’ opportunity, offered us a slot in February 2015. You can read more about this project here and you can read any and all of my blog posts about my time there – starting with the first one here. But, in short, this scheme began as a way to keep the shop going when it was threatened with closure and years later it’s still going strong.
I was reminded of my time in Wigtown a few days ago when I read about the experience of Petersfield Bookshop another bookshop that also sells second-hand books. The owner had tweeted from the Hampshire UK shop: ‘we haven’t sold a single book today’. The tweet went viral and quickly led to over a thousand new followers for the shop on Twitter and £1000 worth of book orders. Not only that, other bookshops all around the country which had been feeling rather unloved also started to tweet/report that they too were seeing an upsurge in footfall and purchases as a direct knock on effect.
With bookshops, as with real world shops in general, it’s a case of use it or lose it. Online booksellers and e-readers have had a significant impact on bricks and mortar retailers of paper books. And, yes some bookshops – both independent and national chains have struggled/failed to survive.
But the news isn’t all bad. E-books haven’t killed off paper ones and new bookshops are opening up, while other long-established ones are thriving. In my nearest city, Edinburgh, I know of two book shops which have opened recently – there’s Toppings in the city centre, and there’s the Portobello Bookshop, situated near the city’s seashore. Both seem to be doing well.
And then there’s Main Street Trading, my local bookshop, here in the Scottish Borders – somewhere I can often be found browsing and buying. As well as the cosy and enticing book area, it has a café, gift shop and deli space. There’s an upstairs venue for book related events where authors from all over the country hold very well attended book launches. It’s in this shop that I not only buy books for myself, but it’s also where I buy books and book tokens as gifts for others, and it’s where I buy the books that I send to my two grandchildren in Australia – one book each, once a month, as part of Grandma’s Book Club. Browsing the shelves, discovering new authors, or being reunited with old favourites is just brilliant. And if I’m after a particular book but it’s not in stock, I know I can request it to be ordered in and it will be delivered within a couple of days.
Over the years, wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always made a point of seeking out and buying from the local bookshop. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
So please, please remember Support Your Local Bookshop!
Are you fortunate enough to have a local bookshop? Do you use it? Feel free to share the love in the comments below.