I am giving you a break from sharing with you my participation in the judging of the Costa Biography Prize for three reasons. First, you probably have heard enough, second the process is at a bit of a natural break and third, because I want to share with you (again) the beauty of living near independent bookshops.
I would say that of course, however it is a well-known belief that an area that supports thriving bookshops is a community that embraces the world that surrounds us. The beauty of the six bookshops (ourselves, Kirkdale Bookshop, Bookseller Crow, Tales on Moon Lane, Village Books and Herne Hill Books) is that we are very different. We are different because our shops reflect the owners and the team working here. Take one Saturday, when you have a free diary, and spend the day wandering from one to another of the six bookshops and I guarantee that apart from the national bestseller you will find a different recommendation selection in each shop.
Do you know where the nearest independent bookshop is to you? The Booksellers Association (our trade association) has developed an online interactive map to enable you to find your nearest bookshop based on your post code.
This month the industry has chosen to celebrate independent bookshop on Saturday 11th October with a campaign called Books Are My Bag. This campaign embraced all physical bookshops and it aimed to remind shoppers that there are bookshops in the high street, that they are all around us and are important in our society. Some countries such as France take bookshops so seriously as part of their culture that they restrict the level of price discounting to 5% and in March of this year a new head was appointed for France’s National Book Centre. On taking office their top priority was to convene a board meeting and release funds allocated by the government to help retail booksellers. The €11m ($14.5m) package is an impressive package of support for bookshop. The Institute for Funding Films and Cultural Industries will receive €5m to help bookshops manage cashflow, with a further €4m given to the Association for the Development of Creative Booksellers to assist the transfer of bookselling businesses.
Bookshops are the beating heart of communities, and more, in Manchester it was demonstrated that a bookshop opening in the area increased the house prices! However more importantly the best bookshops offer all readers the chance to pop in and find books that a computer algorithm will not suggest for you. At the annual Booksellers Association conference the author and comedian, David Mitchell, gave a bold speech slating Amazon’s “life-crushing” attitude towards other businesses; the booksellers in the room could barely stay seated when clapping him. The Waterstones’ retail director Rik McShane, told booksellers the chain’s stores were aspiring to “be more like independents” in order to prosper.
Well for those of you lucky enough to live in Sydenham you don’t need a Waterstones, you have Kirkdale Bookshop, or in Crystal Palace there’s Bookseller Crow, in Dulwich Village there is Village Books, in Herne Hill the quaint Herne Hill Books. Independent bookshops can source ¼ million titles for you next day and of course there’s the best independent bookshop in the UK and Ireland on Croxted Road with my own Dulwich Books (sorry could not resist the chance to show you how proud we are of that industry award!)
To sum up what I would say to all book lovers and book buyers in South London, don’t browse and click, but walk and choose for what I promise will be a much more rewarding experience all round.