An article in today’s Irish Times made me think about bookshops. Being an e-book, Only You will only be available to purchase online, and I have fed my new Kindle with some good e-books, but I still love to browse for physical books in a physical bookshop!
The bookshop which came the closest to being my favourite moved out of my local town centre last year. I was extremely disappointed as it was where I would buy the vast majority of my genealogy, history, and especially local history books. It also had a wide selection of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. It did not simply stock the Top Ten. It was quite small, and it didn’t have a coffee shop, but the staff were helpful and I enjoyed browsing and buying there.
So what is left book-wise in my local town? Well, there is a shop which doesn’t really know what it wants to be. Newsagent? Stationers? Gift shop? Bookshop? It’s a bit of a jumble stock-wise and I rarely shop there. The only other bookshop in the town used to be a second hand bookshop and still has the air of one. I know that sounds snobbish but it really could do with a makeover and I find it just the wrong side of gloomy. It also has quite a strange range of books – the very cheap and the very expensive – and not much in between.
Increasingly, I find myself browsing for books in the increasing numbers of charity shops popping up in towns all over Ireland. You never know what you might find in charity shops, and you do find the odd gem amongst the numerous copies of Angela’s Ashes, but I now find myself buying the vast majority of my physical books online.
Even when I’m over in the UK, I notice the number of bookshops decreasing each time I visit the town nearest to where my Mum lives. One of the branches of Waterstones I used to work in is now gone, it was merged with another branch nearby. The second hand bookshop I loved, as it was absolutely crammed with books from floor to ceiling in every category imaginable, has also gone. I really miss that one as it had lots of British history books I just wouldn’t find here in Ireland. I picked up quite a few books to feed my interest in Richard III and The Wars of the Roses in that shop.
I also found a copy of Thom’s Directory there. It is an Irish commercial and street directory and is very useful in genealogy research. I rarely find them on sale so I bought it and because it is so thick and heavy – about two or three kilos – I had to bring it home in my hand luggage. Naturally, I got stopped at security at Stansted Airport as this huge mass showed up on their screens and they couldn’t figure out what it was. I had to lift the huge book out of my bag to show them and the security man looked at it, looked at me, then said, “Like reading, do you?” LOL
There is one independent bookshop left on the High Street in that town and I wonder for how long it can survive? Luckily, the town has a vast number of charity shops – twenty-nine at my last count – and I can spend a full day ‘doing’ them all.
The Irish Times article is Dublin-specific, but back in the day when I used to regularly travel to Dublin to undertake genealogy research, I could plan my route to and from the station via all the city centre bookshops! I haven’t been in Dublin in quite a while and I wonder how many of them are still there as the article doesn’t mention quite a few of the bookshops I remember. Back when I could still eat cheese, the café in Hodges Figgis used to do a delicious Tuna Melt sandwich!
Recently, HMV in Ireland has shut up shop so, locally, there is nowhere I can find a good selection of non-Top Ten DVDs now. I realised sadly the other day that there are now no shops I would go to town to browse in – they’ve all gone. It’s such a shame that there is now less and less choice. Yes, shopping online is cheap and convenient but I do miss being able to browse in a bookshop and, more than likely, buy something. The online retailers must be rubbing their hands together with glee.