A troubled chapter in the life of bookshops

Sarah Thorogood, LBW
Sarah Thorogood, LBW

Leighton Buzzard Writers’ Group weekly column. This week by Sarah Thorogood...

When was the last time you bought a new book? By book, I mean an actual copy you can hold in your hand, not an ‘e-book’.

I was in Waterstones the other day buying a handful of books (with a well-thought out present of a book voucher) and it occurred to me that 
although books seem to still be popular, smaller independent bookshops are disappearing.

Take Leighton Buzzard, it used to have two independent book shops tucked away as well as a WH Smiths. Now only WH Smiths is left and the other two stores have sadly closed. The trouble is that the chains and supermarkets get all the brand new titles and can afford to sell them at ridiculous prices and with special offers.

The smaller, independent shops have no chance of keeping up with them and their bread and butter is taken away.

This is such a shame, as even with the takeover of technology (kindles, e-books), people are still buying hard copies of books from the high street and online. That’s a testament to how important they are to both reader and writers alike.

For me there’s nothing quite like the feel and smell of a brand new book, I’m excited every time to open to the first page and begin reading. I was pleased to find out that 56% of all book buying decisions are made by customers in a bookshop and high street book shops (both chains and independents) still account for almost 40% of books bought by customers (figures from Books are my Bag campaign).

Yet as Leighton Buzzard clearly shows (and I’m sure this is true for towns and cities all over the country), many high street bookshops are under threat from technology as well as the ease of online shopping.

There is something special about standing in a bookshop.The opportunity to browse hundreds of titles, to feel and smell the paper on which they are printed and the calm, yet buzzing atmosphere.

You just don’t get this online or in a busy supermarket.

So if books are ‘your bag’ as they are very much mine, let’s try and ensure that our town doesn’t lose its last bookshop.