Why there's life in the book trade yet

Reading and righting

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Why there's life in the book trade yet

Don’t listen to the naysayers. There’s life in the book trade yet, says Kirstin Innes

Between the bankruptcy of Borders before Christmas and the oncoming onslaught of cheeky backlit upstarts like the Kindle and the iPad, popular wisdom would have it that things are looking a little gloomy in the world of book selling.

It’s certainly a difficult time to be an independent book seller, fighting for space with Waterstone’s marketplace dominance and 3 for 2 scheme, and the ease/ridiculous loss-leading discounts involved in shopping over Amazon. Lost In Fiction, a promising looking new opening on Glasgow’s Byres Road in 2008, didn’t last a year in business. However, three relatively new shops, The Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield, Glasgow’s Hyndland Bookshop and the award-winning Watermill in Aberfeldy, seem positively chipper about the challenges ahead.

‘Yes, people do seem to be in thrall to Amazon, don’t they?’ chuckles Kevin Ramage, who co-owns the Watermill. ‘They do nibble around our edges from time to time, but business has been very, very good here over the last few months. It’s supposed to be quiet time just now, and we’re still busy. We offer a whole package – we have a café and homeware shop attached. People can’t while away a damp afternoon on Amazon. Well, they can, but it would be depressing!’

Vanessa Robertson, who runs both the Children’s Bookshop (like Ramage, with her partner) and its grown-up neighbour the Edinburgh bookshop is equally unfazed, and is convinced the personal touch will keep the independents afloat.

‘With independent bookshops, staff have ownership and feel empowered – if a customer comes in for a problem, we can talk it through. We can order books in quickly, we can deliver, we can look after schools who need orders, we can organise author events. We’re just trying to feel part of the community.’

What independents can do that the centrally-run chain stores can’t is cater to their community, and long may they continue to do so.

Hyndland Bookshop, 143 Hyndland Road, Glasgow, 0141 334 5522; The Edinburgh Bookshop, 181 Bruntsfield Place, 0131 229 9207, www.edinburghbookshop.com; The Watermill, Mill Street Aberfeldy, 01887 822896, www.aberfeldywatermill.com

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