Monday, 27 October 2014


This week I was reading that we publish more books in the UK per capita than anywhere else in the world. Everyone has a book in them they say. Rather a lot of those books are getting out, it would seem.

But until recently book sales were declining and this year PWC predicted that e-books would overtake the sales of real books by 2018. That’s been the trend for sure but last year sales of e-books actually went backwards. And now I keep on coming across early adopters of Kindle who’ve renounced the e-theology. Too few fonts, too ordinary and everything dressed in the same clothes.

The same sort of experts as those guys at PWC were arguing the case for out of town shopping and deriding the potential of the high street, Here’s what one Harpreet Johal, the former managing director of the online retail chain Clothing Direct, said in the Financial Times a few years ago:
It is time for the local high street to die. The case for its death is simple: people no longer shop there.

Mark Price of Waitrose is now saying that as in all markets there’s been a splintering of consumer activity. We have shopping online, in the high street and out of town, a bit of store-choice-promiscuity, and frequent shopping for what we want tonight. The concept of the once-a-week monster-family-shop is over.

As is the alleged demise of books.

Have a look at these two pieces of film, respectively an ad for Ikea and a skit from a Norwegian comedy show.


Another problem I keep hearing about is the death of bookshops and libraries. The Jubilee Library in Brighton seems to be doing pretty well as does the library in nearby Lewes. And the new library in Birmingham is being raved about and won the Royal Institute of British Architects award and narrowly missed winning the prestigious Stirling Prize.

Bookshops? Well like bad restaurants, yes, they keep on closing. I heard of one recently at which, when a friend asked if they had a certain book, she was told “No. Why don’t you try Amazon?
They will have wished they hadn’t said that. She berated them and said she’d never shop there again. Bookshops open when they want - people who work find them closed when they get home and on Sunday, they don’t serve refreshment, they don’t look very nice and the standard of customer service is generally shocking.

But there are exceptions.

Daunts in Marylebone is wonderful and doing really well. And now a small Waterstones has opened in a beautiful Grade 1 building in Lewes. It has an exciting layout and in just over 2000 square feet is an enthusiastic champion of books. Like actor Daniel Radcliffe I want to buy more and more of them.

And if Waterstones’ new store is a sign of the times, real bookshops are on the way back. Good bookshops, Michelin star bookshops.

1 comment:

Ian Wilson said...

Aha - I love a good backlash! E-readers are all very well, but books are easy to lend and share. An old friend and I often send each other books we have enjoyed - not so with a Kindle (other E-readers are also available).