Monday, 15 July 2013

How to Keep Your Indie Bookshop Open!! by Miriam Halahmy

“Booksellers are not greedy people,” commented Patrick Neale, President of the Independent Booksellers Association, in The Times, 1/7/13. Neale isn’t after a Porsche, bookselling is a vocation to him, he just wants to make enough to live on.
In the modern battleground of Amazon versus our local friendly bookseller, it seems that there is a shift back towards the indie shops as the consumer begins to question Amazon’s tax avoidance. How can we help our local bookshop to stay open and the bookseller continue to feed his kids?
I go to a local bookshop because until very recently my entire reading life was based around the ability to pick up a solid, hardcore artefact called a book and browse through it, back and forth, carefully turning the pages so that I left them pristine, flicking back to check a word, a fact, a photo, flipping to the back or the middle and breathing in the atmosphere of the book.

 Last month I visited the Bodleian Library and was shown at close quarters 13th century Hebrew texts complete with illuminated letters. Nothing beats the book for me.

But I do read on a Kindle, I do buy from Amazon and two of my own books are on Kindle. Should I be put up against a wall and shot?

Emily Rhodes, Daunt Books, Hampstead, asks if it is time to change the message. “Instead of thinking about the negatives of Amazon, we should realise the positives of going to a bookshop.” Daunt runs the highly successful Walking Book Clubs over Hampstead Heath, discussing the chosen text of the month and as a result similar clubs have sprung up from Edinburgh to Exmoor. “In the fragile tumultuous book industry the walking book club is one of the few things that seems to be growing,” says Emily, “and it has nothing to do with Amazon.”

Joanna de Guia, owner of Victoria Park Books in Hackney comments, “Nobody would open a bookshop today in the hope of making a fortune.” But although she acknowledges Amazon’s success she points out, “They are not invested in any community. My bookshop brings literature and stories to communities where this is not the norm.” And this of course is true for many other notable bookshops such as Newham Bookshop and The Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town. “Without us bringing authors into local schools and creating local free literary events,” comments Jo, “ many more children would finish school without making any meaningful connection with books and writing.”
So what can we do??
Visit our local bookshops, support their events and quite simply, as Patrick Neale advocates, do what the Americans have started doing – Go into your local bookshop and just buy one or two books – that alone would be enough to ensure their survival.
Well – I can do that – in fact, I have been making sure most of my book buying life that I do just that. Even since the advent of Amazon, I still make a point of buying a book from my local bookshops such as Daunt at different points throughout the year.

I also support other independent bookshops on the South Coast near Hayling Island where my books are set.

Blackwells, Portsmouth is run by the marvellous Jo West who gives great support to local authors.She gave me a wonderful launch for my book, Illegal. Jo is a delight to discuss books with and has introduced me to many great authors. I always buy at least two books when I visit.

The Hayling Island Bookshop run by husband and wife team, Colin and Marie Telford, have been one of my greatest supports. I was there just two days ago and these are the books I bought. 

As authors we need to give the support back.
There is no point in bemoaning the rise of Amazon and then being too mean to pay the prices in your local independent bookshop. We can embrace the new and still support our lovely, traditional, quirky, individual local bookshops.
  • Identify the book you want to buy.
  • Go to your local bookshop and buy it.
  • Take it home with pride.
Then next time you want that beautiful experience of browsing for a book, you will hopefully find that you have been part of the movement to keep your wonderful local bookshop open.

Because they are worth it!!


JO said...

For those in North Wilts - I can recommend the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough. Lovely little shop!

Sue Bursztynski said...

If you're in Melbourne at any time, I recommend Collected Works in the CBD. It does classics and poetry of all kinds, volumes on history, mythology, etc. and celebrates Bloomsday each year with readings, Irish food and drink.

bookwitch said...

Not living close enough to a normal indie, and having very little money for books (especially at full price), I have to own up to hardly ever visiting indie bookshops. But I gather that some of them are actually quite nice.

Miriam Halahmy said...

This is turning into a great place to recommend indie bookshops. And bookwitch - let's hope one opens near you soon.

Penny Dolan said...

I'm afraid another danger comes from the now well-organised charity bookshop movement, such as the big new Oxfam Bookshop that's opened in our town with minimal rent & charges, free stock, and no staff costs.

Such shops can do damage to the local indies, and have more or less wiped out the second hand book trade where I live.

Ann Turnbull said...

I don't believe any authors are "too mean" to pay the full price for books; and I'm sure we all love to browse in indie bookshops when we come across them. It's the coming across them that's the problem.

D.J. Kirkby said...

I read in any format I can get my hands on - paperback, hardback or digital - and I seem to be incapable to leaving a bookstore without having purchased a book! Great post Miriam.

Anonymous said...

I work in a small independent bookshop in Chester in a prominent position on the city walls. After ten and a half years we still get locals who do not know that we exist or who think that because we are not part of a chain we are obviously a secondhand bookshop.