I feel guilty whenever I visit a bookshop these days.
But in the last four years, precisely 0 of those purchases have been on paper.
I’m a Kindle fanatic and a minimalist; I’ve given away half a thousand print books over the last year or two and my shelfspace at home doesn’t even stretch to a metre. That combo is killer for any bookshop.
And I’m sorry.
From the bright detailing of the big chains to the musty corners of the independents that still dot Charing Cross Road, I enjoy them all. Browsing, visiting, wasting time. But unless there’s a coffee shop, I no longer have any reason to buy anything in them. I am driving them out of business.
But just as no teenager today can believe we used to carry around music machines that stored a single album, I simply can’t bring myself to buy the print edition of any book. Books take up too much space. How and why could I possibly justify purchasing a kilogram of dead tree, when a thin grey slate that weighs next to nothing can store two thousand of them?
Like I said, I’m sorry, bookshops.
But I’ll make you a promise or two. It’s not much, but it’ll help. Maybe.
- I promise I won’t come in to paw the books before buying them on Kindle. That’s theft of resource, plain and simple. If I want to read the blurbs, I’ll do it at Amazon.
- I promise I’ll buy a coffee. If there’s a tea stand out back, I’ll stick around and buy a beverage, maybe a croissant or something. Even if I’m not hungry. I owe you that much.
- And I promise I’ll do anything short of outright charity to keep you around. When you run Writers’ Nights, I’ll support them. When I want to rent space, I’ll look at you first.
Let’s face it, your business model is bleeding out, and unless you’re a City Lights or a Shakespeare & Co you haven’t got long. But our streets are richer for having you in them. And I really, really want you to stay.