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The local bookshop is closing

So it says in the local paper. At the end of this month, after having been there for 40 years, apparently. It’s because they simply aren’t doing enough trade – online sales seem to be the main culprit, along with high business rates and the credit crunch.
A couple of other businesses have also announced closures and several have already closed, so pretty soon we’re going to lose the individuality of the town centre and its selection of small, specialist shops like this bookshop.
I have mixed feelings abut this. I never bought much from them because most of the things I actually want to buy are relatively specialist nonfiction or niche literature of one kind or another. I could go there, place an order and wait, then go back and pick up the book. Or I could order online and it would turn up a couple of days later, usually at a cheaper price from an Amazon reseller. So yes, bookshops do have a tough time these days.
However, as a community we will miss out, because they were specialist sellers of local history and did a fair bit of trade with hobbyists, mainly in areas such as vintage vehicle enthusiasts and model railways. I was always interested in the books they displayed on how to model a particular segment of railway line, circa 1948 and reconstructed from original plans and photos, or the history of mobile library vans – not that I actually bought these things, but was somehow (obscurely?) reassured that such stuff actually existed.
No doubt they could find another way to sell this stuff – from a market staff on Thursdays and Saturdays, or online or whatever. But I think the bit where we’ll suffer is that much of this material, including the local history, is published in pamphlet form, or self-published, often without ISBNs, and wouldn’t easily be available other than through the shop. Indeed it may not even be easy to track down online (and yes, I did just do some test searches!).
So what saddens me is that some of the more recondite local history is likely to become effectively unavailable.
As to the model railway stuff – there’s still a model railway shop that may stock this kind of material. The rest of it, I don’t know.
I don’t personally want to spend huge amounts of time getting involved in ‘saving’ local history and vintage mobile library history. But it does seem to me that there’s a case for someone, or some people, to start collecting a lot of this material and doing a print-on-demand service that could be run off a website… there has to be some publishing model that would work for niches like these that are not simply small, but tiny – though nonetheless seem to be important in terms of maintaining local identity and culture.

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  1. March 29, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Funny – I just watched ‘You’ve got mail’ last night….

    I think it’s sad but inevitable.

  2. March 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    I’ve had a few conversations over the last couple of days about this kind of thing. When I moved here, I knew the place wasn’t even big enough to be the armpit of the universe – more like a space between two of its grubby toes. Its main advantage was that it had brilliant transport links by road, rail and air to anywhere else I needed to get to. However it did have a kind of quirky charm – a great street market two days a week, and some individual, one-of-a-kind independent shops.
    The pool of talent round here is still huge, but most of the interesting people I know work either from home or, like a local glass-blower and stained glass restorer, out of a unit in a run-down town-edge industrial estate. The town centre is increasingly anonymous and no amount of city-council funded art (a statue commemorating the towns hosiery trade heritage, big new sculptural rocks in the local park) is going to make it feel a more interesting place to live.
    We have half an idea to encourage people to run a local regular event at which some of the creativity and inventiveness that’s around can be showcased. And other people do have similar ideas – there a hit-and-run art gallery that popped up in shop vacated last year, and it was run by and for local artists for the purpose of mounting a one-off exhibition. They may well be doing it again in another shop, just persuading someone to let them have it for a month, sometime in the future.
    It’s a case of how it’s possible to bring together the talent and creativity with a workable financial model, I think, in order to give the town back some of its sense of individuality.

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