When we first moved into our house here seven years ago, I was delighted to find that our local, unprepossessing shopping centre was the home of that veritable treasure: the independent bookshop.
Richard stocks a diverse range of books and is happy to order in for his customers. In fact, he keeps a database of those of us who eagerly hoover up each new release by particular authors. Bless him, he phones me when these books come in and tells me he’s putting aside a copy for me.
This is personalised service by someone who loves books and loves to talk about books.
Last year Richard opened a second shop, fifteen minutes’ drive away, vowing at the time he would keep his original bookshop open.
And until now, he kept to his word. I was saddened to hear last month that he is closing the shop near us at the end of this month. Saddened but not surprised, really, as his new shop is in a slightly better socio-economic area which augers well for sales.
I visited my bookshop today. All books are 25% off and he is even selling the handsome wooden bookshelves they are displayed on. Every bookshelf has a sold sticker on it. Half the bookshelves are empty already.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find any fiction to buy as I had the latest by my favourites and didn’t see any authors I’d like to start exploring. I did, however, buy Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen. It must be kismet; I’ve been looking for that book in Richard’s shop for months, dithering about whether to order it in as modern cookbooks, with their pages of photos and funky layouts, are quite expensive. Until today it hadn’t been in stock. Now it’s mine at 25% off and my mouth was watering as I flicked through it over lunch.
Come 1 November, however, I will have to look for my book fix elsewhere. I can drive to the nearest Dymocks or Angus & Robertson – I forget which, they are quite interchangeable – at the bigger shopping centre 7 minutes’ drive away, or go that bit further and pay Richard a call at his new shop. I’ve been buying books on eBay for years so that won’t change, and increasingly I am buying Kindle versions as they are cheaper and we are running out of bookshelf space and space to put new bookshelves.
The nice thing about my local shop – particularly nice for Richard – is that I was prone to impulse buy, simply because the shop was there and I was going to the shopping centre anyway to buy groceries.
I know Richard will still keep my name on his database and call me when something I like comes in, so he may pick up an impulse buy or two when I go to pick it up. But it won’t be the same… it’s been such a pleasure, and these days a luxury, to have a bookshop only five minutes’ walk from home.
It’s increasingly hard for independent booksellers to compete against the big chains of bookstores, and online buying. I should be grateful that Richard didn’t shut his local doors earlier, and hope that his new bookshop can not just survive, but thrive.