More than 500 independent bookshops have shut in the UK and Ireland since 2005, according to the Booksellers Association (BA), in the face of competition from online retailers, supermarkets and e-books.Bookshops are fighting back, though, and on Monday shop owners gathered at the BA's annual conference to discuss what "the bookshop of the future" will look like.
Cafes have become common features of bookshops in an effort to bring more customers through the doors and keep them there."Bookshops have their own advantages which Amazon and Kindle don't," says James Lowther, founding partner of advertising agency M&C Saatchi, who devised the current Books Are My Bag marketing campaign.
"Exploit your physical environment," he tells bookshop owners. "Do things like open cafes, but make it the best cafe in the town."
Booksellers Association chief executive Tim Godfray says stores could go one step further. "The idea of a bookshop with a bar sounds pretty civilised to me," he says.
"It would be great fun. You could sit back and peruse while having a nice cold glass of Chardonnay. You can't get that online."
But Miriam Robinson, head of marketing at Foyles, cautions against making visitors too comfortable.
"The idea of people dwelling all day with a book in their hand in a comfy chair is lovely," she says.
"But I think we all know it's not particularly financially sustainable. We can't really pay for people to sit on our couches and read our books all day."
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