Happy National Bookshop day! Today marks the day when Books Are My Bag– the campaign to celebrate bookshops- encourages people to celebrate these wonderful shops and the people behind them. Whilst larger stores such as Waterstones, Foyles and WHSmith might dominate the high streets and shopping centres, it is the independent book stores whose star continues to rise despite the pressure from online retailers and industry giants.
It is the simple pleasure of browsing a small book shop, and never knowing what you might find, that is central to the success of independent book shops. In Bridport, Dorset, my hometown, there are numerous brilliant independent book stores all offering something different; whether it be the eclectic, haphazardness that you find in Wild and Homeless Books, or the ingeniously names Book Shop’s exceptional range of new books and brilliant window displays, there is something for everyone.
The attraction of many of the seaside towns in the country comes from their affiliation with literature, such as Lyme Regis’s links to The French Lieutenant’s Woman and, for those of us addicted to Crime Fiction, Dexter’s setting of part of The Way Through the Woods in this stunning costal town. As such, the region is teeming with bookshops brimming with insightful staff, antiquated texts long out of print and shelves bursting with books to suit every taste. If you are ever in Lyme Regis, there is a stunning little bookshop right on the cob (again, imaginatively named ‘The Book Shop’), whose owner is utterly marvellous and boasts a fine collection of books which cannot be bettered.
Charity shops also offer a great selection of second hand books, with the added bonus that when you buy from them you always feel righteous as you realise that the money from the sale will go towards a good cause.
In the Midlands, my current home, independent bookshops are fewer and further between, however there are still some hidden gems to be found throughout the country, and it is a great thrill to find somewhere with a new selection to delve through. As I mentioned in my recent post Print Publishing: The Surprising Contender to Topple the Kindle, there is a real thrill to getting a physical copy of a book, and the same can be said for buying literature. It is one thing to browse online and read the blurbs, quite another to really get stuck into exploring a bookshop, seeing all the glossy covers and being inspired by the stunning cover art and inventive displays.
It is this fascination with seeing books in the flesh (as it were), and the inspiration that a good bookshop can bring, that is the reason why, in my opinion, bookshops will never truly die. Despite the rise of cheap, online book retailers, there will never be anything quite like diving into an unexplored bookshop and the thrill of finding something new.