29th June – 6th July 2013 hosts a week dedicated to celebrating independent booksellers. With the ever-rising surge of online conglomerates, our bookshops are in danger and are increasingly becoming victim to ‘showrooming’.
Despite this, with large companies reportedly evading tax, many people have been put off from using them to buy books. BBC News posted this article to its site today suggesting that authors need to do more to support local bookshops.
Earlier this week, there was an event at the Southbank Centre in London, entitled: ‘The Perfect Storm: Why Bookshops are in the Frontline in the Battle for the High Street’. Anne Sebba, chair of the Society of Authors, stated that encouraging authors to visit their local bookshops and engage with customers will in turn encourage them to buy books from the shop. She says that customers will feel like they are taking away a part of the author, and not just the book.
This is certainly the case with Toppings and Company Booksellers of Ely and Bath bookshops. Living relatively near to Ely, I know that the Ely branch regularly hosts author talks which receives a fantastic response from customers. Past author visits have included Audrey Niffenegger and during this summer in particular, Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood are due to stage talks about their latest novels. I recently attended the talk by Audrey Niffenegger and a good majority of the people who attended the talk bought her book afterwards. Seeing this in practice, I can honestly say that I think Sebba makes a great point. Encouraging authors to visit local bookshops and talking to customers about their works allows people to feel that they understand the book better, as well as the author. In addition, by attending author talks and engaging in your local bookshop’s events, you are supporting the shop currently and for the future, too.
The BBC’s article highlighted that fact that between 2007 and 2012, around 400 independent booksellers closed on high streets across the country. It’s a scary thought that if this persists, we could be down to between 5 and 600 shops on our high streets by 2018.
Do I think independent booksellers will die out? No. I believe that the general public will fight to keep booksellers in business. I feel that despite the Booksellers’ Association’s alarming static that two-thirds of shoppers use bookshops as showrooms, the fact that younger customers are ‘feeling guilty’ for not using bookshops shows that consumer behaviours are shifting and that people want to preserve our heritage and culture which is partially made up of independent booksellers.
I also found this interesting article on The Guardian’s website: 5 reasons to support your local indie bookshop