I’ve been doing a lot of research for my documentary project ‘the decline in bookstores’ and was intrigued by Philip Jones’s article stating:
“subsidies cannot, and should not, save independent shops… owners and publishers have to make them unique places to visit.”
unique places to visit..
Part of the selling point of Waterstones is the integrated Costa and the small number of comfy chairs that are dotted around its stores. WHSmiths in Truro used to have one comfy chair in it that was always occupied. One of the highlights of going round the shops when I was a kid (aside from playing with the train set in the Early Learning Centre) was sitting in book shops and looking through all the Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson books. Even more so when the weather was gloomy.
There’s something so satisfying about sitting on a comfortable chair in a warm room with a book in your hand listening to the rain pour down outside.
Myself, mother and brothers would spend up to an hour, waiting for my rogue father to return from the record shops, looking at books. We’d never buy any because we didn’t have the money, but we’d browse and that was better than nothing. I had a soft spot for poetry. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes and Gez Walsh’s The Spot on my Bum. Those are both books I’ll be reading to the children/grand children.
It made me think; Philip Jones has a point. Why is it, do you think, that Starbucks is so popular?
It’s comfortable. It’s warm. It’s light. It’s inviting. It has soft furnishings and big, heavy mugs that heat your cold hands up in the winter. It’s welcoming.
This is what a book shop should be like. Ever since online shopping came along we lost the need to go out. If you wanted a book, you used to have to go out and buy it. Book shops didn’t need to invite you in, apart from to keep up with competition on the high street. Now the competition is digital. It’s so easy to buy books elsewhere it strikes me that shops need to do something more to keep customers coming to their stores. They need to remind people of why bookstores are so great.
We need to get back to the physical.
We’ve lost the experience. Shopping has become instantaenous thanks to the internet. Sure you have to wait for your product to be delivered, but it means you needn’t leave the house. With prices cheaper online and in supermarkets people will ditch book stores for quicker and cheaper alternatives. Popular titles now sit beside the milk and tiger loaf in your trolley.
It’s just not the same.
We need to reintegrate the idea that book stores are worth spending our free time in. They’re warm, carpeted, wood-panelled havens that smell of paper back novels and sometimes coffee (twice the nasal satisfaction).
I’m probably biased (by probably I mean definitely); not everybody likes books. But for me, in my dream home, I gots me one of theeeeese.
[I fantasise about wooden step ladders on wheels]
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