Friday, June 27, 2014

What do independent bookshops mean to us?

Emma Chapman - The Bookseller

What do independent bookshops mean to us? And do we care if they cease to exist? Next week, I’m embarking on an epic indie adventure to support those remaining across the UK.

Imagine the perfect bookshop, full of carefully chosen books picked by wonderful, eccentric staff. It’s the centre of its community, a place where people can meet, browse, pet the resident dog, or catch the eye of a fellow Brontë fan.

There’s been much talk recently about Amazon’s plans for world domination. The recent battle with Hachette has revealed its industry clout. It is a force to be reckoned with, now allegedly taking over 40% of all US book sales.

The retailer has also been making headlines for tax avoidance, only paying 0.1% tax on UK income in 2013. Perhaps if indies had this option, they wouldn’t be going out of business. Since 2005, over 550 independent booksellers have closed their doors. This February, the remaining number fell below 1,000 for the first time. Waterstones is still reporting losses.

I’m not ready to lose bookshops from our high streets. If we really think about it, I don’t think many of us are. It’s easy to shake our heads as yet another indie closes its doors, but are we really doing anything to prevent it? We continue to buy from online retailers, despite the fact that many indies offer next-day delivery. Amazon is able to discount books, often taking a loss which it makes up on other products. So perhaps we are saving one or two pounds on our book purchases—is that saving worth the loss of our local indies?

I don’t think so. That’s why I’m embarking on a journey to thank indies for all the work they do on behalf of authors. I’ll travel from Land’s End to St Andrews in a kindly loaned Auto Europe rental car, visiting as many bookshops as I can in one month. It coincides with Independent Booksellers’ Week (28th June–5th July).

I’m calling it #IndieBookCrawl. I’ll be tweeting (@emmajchapman) and “Facebooking” the journey and I’d love it if readers came along for the ride. You can pop down to a bookshop in person, or tweet your indie purchases during the month using the hashtag #IndieBookCrawl. I’ll also be asking booksellers for their messages to readers.

We make the purchasing decisions and hold the power to do something. Let’s make a stand and help out indies before it’s too late.

Emma Chapman’s How To Be a Good Wife (Picador) is out now.

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