Are bookshops doomed?

Supporters of the traditional book format, of which I am one, are fond of saying that digital books will never match the sensory experience of a `proper’ book.

Whatever technological advances may be around the corner, it’s hard to see anyone creating an e-book format that matches the look, feel and even smell of a book printed on paper.

Much as I appreciate the convenience of online retailing, I can’t see future generations getting misty-eyed over memories of visits to Amazon.co.uk. Yet I recall with deep affection my childhood visits to the library at the end of my road, of getting the bus to our nearest bookshop, and even of arriving back at my student accommodation with new copies of all the books I needed for my first year.

Although I like to think the two types of books may continue to co-exist for decades, in the way that TV didn’t disappear when radio arrived, I’m not sure the same can be said for bookshops.

A report out today from e-commerce delivery specialists ParcelHero claims home shopping will see the majority of High Street book stores disappear in a little over a decade.

By 2030, according to the research, a little over 600 books shops will be left remaining.

It’s hard to argue with that, when you consider that the number of independent book shops in Britain declined from 1535 in 2008 to 987 in 2013.

Amazon and others may make it simple to find what you want, if you know what you want. Yet, even with all those `helpful’ suggestions telling you what other customers have bought fall well short of the pleasure of an encounter with a good book seller keen to make sure you leave the shop with just the right book.

That might mean an eye-catching window display, tables of books on a particular theme, or some old-fashioned face to face advice.

If bookshops do disappear completely, we may not lose access to great books, but we’ll surely be losing something special.


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