Next week (29th June – 6th July) is Independent Booksellers Week 2013 which celebrates independent bookshops and the reasons why they’re still important on our High Streets (Main Streets if you’re Irish!) Independent Booksellers Week is now in its 7th year and each year it builds into a larger celebration. We’re participating again this year as it’s important for people to realise that it’s not all doom-and-gloom as far as bookshops are concerned.
Every day I’m asked ‘So, how’s it going?’ and ‘What about them e-books?’ with people fully expecting me to tell them how tough it is, and quite possibly that we’re struggling to stay open. Of course, it’s wonderful that people care enough about us to ask the question but I can’t help but feel that the ongoing negative publicity around independent bookshops is also partly to blame for so many of them struggling to survive – it’s hard to convince people that you’re going to be there next year, never mind about next decade! Believe it or not, we’re actually doing very well – thank you for asking! This year’s takings are up on last year, which was up on the year before, which was up on the year before that. I’m constantly looking ways for us to expand our business, find new customers and improve our services to existing customers because it’s our customers who make our business work. Yes, it is a lot of hard work but honestly, what isn’t these days? And no, you’re right, it’s not about to make me a millionaire but I can live with that. This year’s Independent Bookshop of the Year Awards and the Bord Gais Energy Irish Bookshop of the Year both show that there’s still stacks of great independent bookshops out there that are not only successful businesses but also a key part of their local communities. Yes, there are less bookshops than there used to be and I’m not denying that there’s real threats to keeping bookshops on the High Street – not just Amazon and its heavy discounts fuelled by tax loopholes and low wages – but ever-increasing rents and rates bills, as well as town centre parking charges, levied by governments desperately trying to offset their loss of income caused by encouraging profit-led multinationals, but there’s still stacks of potential for independent bookshops to succeed in modern retailing. We need to adapt, and understand what modern book-buyers want from a physical bookshop, but we also need to believe in ourselves and help others believe in our future. There is a chance that there won’t be any physical bookshops left in 10 years, but there’s also a good chance that there will be and that they’ll be selling great books to great readers just like they always have done.