Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bookshops at Risk

Last night the Bitch and her partner went to a reading at Manchester Waterstone's Deansgate, and it was just like the old days: a thrilling display of books from the radical small press Dedalus, the publisher Eric Lane and his companions travelled to be there in person, two Dedalus authors - Nick Royle and Andy Oakes - reading, a small but intensely dedicated audience, nice red wine and bookish conversations before and after, and everyone, thus mellowed, (including the impecunious Bitch) buying far more books than they might otherwise have done, and going away with a new body of literature to relate to and purchase in future.

But you can't help thinking it was just a last dying gasp: Robert Jones, Deansgate events manager responsible for the evening, announced his departure in a fortnight's time to Bath, where he will help to run a new independent bookshop being set up by Robert Topping, ex-manager of Deansgate and king of that old author-reading era. And this morning we read that HMV is to close 30 of its Waterstone's stores and reduce the number of 'highbrow' books it stocks to combat falling profits which it blames on the encroachment by Amazon and the supermarkets. (Will this give some breathing space to independents like the new one in Bath, or will they continue to fall similarly prey to the internet and the supermarkets?)

And how about this from Monday's Guardian article on the books people fail to read: "The important thing from a bookseller's point of view," said a spokesman for Waterstone's, "is that people buy the books in the first place." Understandable of course, but yet another indication of the increasing enforced commodification of literature.


Susan Hill said...

I am afraid Robert Topping has behaved very badly. Fine to open a new Indie bookshop somewhere but Bath has to absolutely excellent MR B`S BOOK EMPORIUM, an indy set up on a wing and a prayer less than 2 years ago, doing fine but NOT needing any more competition other than that they already have from one of the very best Waterstones. Robert could have chosen plenty of large towns which do not have a good Indy and I feel very sorry for Nic at Mr B`s. This is the sort of thing Ottakar`s used to do - target a town with a good indy and go in. There is not room for a large and good waterstones, a big WHS - which after allm does mop up a lot of ordinary book buyers - and TWO indy bookshops.

Elizabeth Baines said...

Oh dear...