Friday, 25 October 2013

Posts from BOOKMARK

 

Hi guys! As promised, here is one of the posts I did for BOOKMARK. I'll be putting up a few more which will include interviews with authors such as James Robertson, author of 'The Professor of Truth', Andrew Greig, author of 'Fair Helen', Liz Lochhead, the Scottish Makar and Mairi Hedderwick.
 
Enjoy!

 

The Importance of Bookshops

 
Oct 16 2013
               
I can clearly remember summers spent as a child in Scotland; a foreign world for somebody who has spent their childhood overseas. During the days I spent in Blairgowrie with my family we would often wander up and down the High Street, peering into the shop windows. One shop I would always look forward to visiting was the bookshop, owned by Louise Gow, which occupies a small corner of the High Street next to the Royal Bank of Scotland. It didn’t matter if my parents hadn’t brought enough money with them to buy me a book; I just wanted to see what was there.

 As you can probably tell, books are my passion which is what made Louise’s shop so important to me. Although I know people who share the same love of books as me, it seems that nowadays instead of picking up a book and delving into the imagination of an author, people would much rather switch on the telly or games console. I’m not trying to preach the notion that the written word is somehow endangered by modern day technology because the idea is, if not ridiculous, at least wrong. I’m saying that often we look at a book on the shelf and disregard it.

 Because of my love for stories I hold the hope that BOOKMARK will bring people back to those forgotten books and encourage them to pick them up. Louise Gow shares similar ideals.
What I didn’t really think about before I went to talk to Louise about BOOKMARK was the fact that books are quite hard to sell. To an avid reader, this thought seems laughable. In the world of my imagination, books fly off the shelves and people can’t get enough of them. This is (sadly) just a fairy tale idea of my version of a perfect world. Meanwhile, back in reality, Louise has had to diversify the range of items for sale on her shelves in order to keep her bookshop going.

You shouldn’t be surprised to find jewellery, hand-decorated wine glasses and skilfully crafted hats and gift-boxes jumping out at you from amongst the books. In fact, these items, which would have seemed out of place in a bookshop only five years ago, now seem to be making up the bulk of sales.

I asked Louise whether she though BOOKMARK would increase book sales in her shop.
“I hope the festival will increase sales of books but it’s a difficult one because bookshops aren’t selling anything like as many as they used to.”

This comment quickly brought me out of my fantasy world where books sell like hotcakes and everyone loves reading them. I then asked Louise whether she believed BOOKMARK would introduce more people to reading.

“I hope so,” she told me. “The events for children will certainly get the younger generation interested in reading.”

This was slightly more upbeat and I couldn’t help smiling at the idea of a child discovering the alternate world of a story, home to heroes and baddies, pirates, fairies, dragons and spies – the list could go on an on. Once that imaginary place is found, it’s hard to leave. That’s why, even as a teenager, books still appeal to me, and will continue to do so throughout my adult life.
After this brief respite from the doom of Britain’s bookshops I asked another pressing question relating to an issue which I know has been growing in regards to the actual physical book. Were ebooks responsible for the decrease in sales in Louise’s shop?

“EBooks, second-hand bookshops, charity shops, Amazon – that’s what’s done it. I’ve discovered that when a hardback book comes out, an ebook is brought out at the same time and then the paperback doesn’t come out for maybe six months to a year and then I’m finding that instead of re-printing a book they won’t do it because it’s cheaper just to have an ebook. That’s the knock-on effect unfortunately.”

So maybe my initial impression of people’s reading habits was a little off. There are many of us who love to read, a surprising amount in fact – we manage to fit it in alongside the TV, and even to integrate it into our technology. This desire to read and the current economic climate means we are not prepared to pay retail prices that haven’t been slashed in half and half again. This is what is forcing bookshops to close. It’s not a case of not wanting to read, it’s a case of feeding our habit on a budget.

 BOOKMARK does indeed look set to encourage our desire to read and discover that child-like world of imagination, but whether it will send us off in the direction of the local bookshop or towards Amazon and cheaper alternatives is debatable.