Saturday, January 11, 2020

Indies rock

Brexit looming large on the horizon, an unfettered Tory majority in the House of Commons, tensions between the US and Iran threatening to explode into World War III, environmental apocalypse in Australia - but let's just grasp at one tiny ray of light in the gloom of early 2020: despite the general woes of high-street retailers and the market hegemony of Amazon, the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland has risen for the third year in succession.

Like record shops, they offer customers things that the major online retailers can't or don't: the opportunity to browse and leaf through potential purchases at leisure; personal recommendations from familiar, friendly faces; regular literary events that bring new publications to life, often involving the authors themselves; promotions of books about the local area, or by local writers.

Space restrictions can actually be a blessing rather than a curse because they demand a carefully curated selection of titles - though this can also be a deliberate strategy, as in the case of Round Table Books, which features in the article. (It's staggering that just 1 per cent of the 9,000-plus kids' books published in the UK in 2017 had BAME main characters - and encouraging that the likes of Round Table are doing what they can to change things.)

The trend also goes to show that, contrary to many predictions, the advent of e-readers hasn't rendered physical books obsolete - far from it. When it comes to a good page-turner, there's simply no substitute for actually being able to turn the page.

Perhaps you'll need to excuse my ignorance, but to my knowledge there are no independent shops selling new books in Cardiff city centre (Troutmark in Castle Arcade is great, but only deals in second-hand titles). By contrast, Abingdon - from where we moved - is a small town but boasts two: The Bookstore and the excellent Mostly Books. Surely there's scope for one in Wales' capital city?

No comments: