This week is Independent Booksellers Week. An interesting article in The Guardian yesterday outlined five reasons to support your local indie bookshop. In order from worst to best, they are:
5) To maintain property prices in your area: Maybe this is because I am neither a Daily Mail reader nor a property owner, but this seems like a very strange reason to support an indie bookshop. I suppose there is a tenuous link in that independent shops are generally found in nice places to live. However, it isn’t really at the top of my list of priorities…
4) To stop them from going out of business: People’s livelihoods are at stake. The units will either remain empty or end up being filled by something like another 99p shop or a tanning salon and nobody wants that.
3) Ethical shopping: In other words, supporting businesses which pay their taxes. This should really go without saying but sadly, it needs to be said. Yes, books are more expensive to buy from independent bookshops but there are a lot of costs involved in publishing them too and everyone needs to eat.
2) Variety: Independent bookshops usually put a lot of effort into their displays and are much better for browsing. Second-hand bookshops may offer out-of-print books that you definitely wouldn’t find on Amazon or other chain bookshops. In particular, the expertise of independent booksellers is especially important. They really do know their stuff and they can offer you decent recommendations, especially if you are trying to buy a gift for someone. The same applies to the benefits of having trained staff in libraries, many of which are slowly being taken over by self-service machines. Computer-generated recommendations based on what other people have read are really not the same.
1) To make sure that good writers continue to be published: Some authors still rely primarily on book sales rather than eBook sales. The article points to Hilary Mantel’s varied career as an example that might not have survived the cut-throat world of publishing if she had been starting out today. If independent bookshops help to ensure good quality writing gets the recognition it deserves then that can only be a good thing.
Overall, independent bookshops are important because they offer something genuinely different. Each one is unique and once they are gone, they are gone forever which is very sad. Even the notoriously grumpy fictional bookseller Bernard Black of Black Books couldn’t disagree with that.