Thursday, 16 February 2012

The death of the bookshop?

I got back late on Tuesday from a lovely few days away, which included two days in Hay-On-Wye.  As you can see from the picture above, I bought quite a few books (as well as a pile of old maps and some lovely vintage fabric).  I'm particularly excited about the stack of Penguin Classics, which look, feel and smell so lovely: they have that old book scent.  Bands On The Road is an intruiging collection of drawings by members of indie rock bands - ranging from Jeffrey Lewis to Coldplay to ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - drawn while on tour.  Beauty Secrets, which is a collection of essays and interviews about women and the politics of appearance, also looks interesting.

However, I was distraught to realise that my favourite secondhand bookshop in Hay had closed.  In fact, there seems to have been a wave of closures there, with four gaps where good bookshops used to be.  If bookshops can't survive in Hay-On-Wye - the mecca for book lovers, host of the famous literary festival - then what hope do shops in other, less book-centric towns, have?  It makes me sad that, in a shortsighted quest for a bargain, we might be killing off the bookshop as we know it.  Amazon is all well and good, but does anything really compare to an hour or three whiled away browsing the shelves, getting a crick in the neck (I always think of this as 'Hay neck') and a bag full of exciting new finds for your trouble? 

The Guardian's Book Blog had a wonderful post last week about the world's finest bookshops (check out the photograph of Richard Booth's Bookshop in Hay at the top of the article and you'll realise why I love the town so much), and For Book's Sake has a long-running feature called Battle Of The Bookshops.  Clearly, there are plenty of people out there who value bookshops and what they can add to a community.  Please support your local store: Amazon, Oxfam or Waterstones might be cheaper, but at what cost to bookshops?

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