I’ve just handed up my last couple of assignments for the semester and am feeling a bit relaxed. I had to go into te city to do so, and before I came back to my campus, I called into Imprints bookshop to buy some titles for work.
I’ve been thinking about this story that came out several months ago, trumpeting the death of the brick-and-mortar bookshop. In the meantime, more A&R shops are closing and there are booksellers who seem to be doing it tough.
So might it come to pass that the book shop might be no more? I have to confess that I’m part of te problem. I buy 95% of my books online. It’s convenient, usually cheaper and there’s the thrill of waiting for a little (or not so little) parcel to arrive on your doorstep. And if it’s digital, there’s no waiting……
But in a shop you can get the serendipity factor. I happened upon Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and, having been meaning to read it for a long time, decided to get it. I’m not actually a detective fiction fan, but his prose is of the ‘I-wanna-read-it-while-I’m-driving’ kind. Not that I would ever do that. And nor should anyone.
Serendipity can happen online as well though. Given the amount of stuff on offer, trawling around online will let you find something pleasantly unexpected. So what else would a bookshop need to survive? Some who are well established will have longevity. Imprints is in the studenty west end of Adelaide, and is well situated for passing foot traffic to wander in. Shops in holiday spots probably have similar advantages, though the trade may be more seasonal.
But generally, bookshops have to get you away from your connection and travel to them. To do that, it may be that a shop has to offer more. Making connections with local writers groups, readings, something for the commnity that is more than just a sale. The best online retailers have to do that too. Amazon is a place to find titles, read reviws, find other books in the same category. There’s no extra charge, it’s part of the service. You could easily go to Amazon, find details of what you’re looking for, and buy elsewhere.
Not all brick-and-mortar places wil be in a position to do more than be booksellers. And those that can’t will disappear. Hence the title. I think there will be far fewer bookshops in 5 years. But it might be better because those that are left will be places that you want to make the effort to travel to. It might not have to be much else that’s offered though. The brief discussion I had today with the guy behind the desk about Chandler was a highlight of the day. Having someone who is knowledgeable to talk to adds value to a transaction that is worth far more than money.
And if you know who I pinched this post’s title from without googling (yes, I’m watch you – especially you) I will be amazed.