10 February 2012


I love bookshops.

I'm sad that they are having such a hard time.  I fear that the drive to online, e-reading and competition from supermarkets will simply drive many to the wall.  If that happens, I'll regard it as a personal loss (that's one of the reasons why I object to e-books) but it will also make our streets so boring - there'll be nothing left but clothes and coffee shops.  What's the good of that?

The bookshops I use, and have used in the past, mean so much to me

For example, there was Willshaws in John Dalton Street in Manchester.  My father, whose office was in Manchester, introduced me to this and when I was a teenager I used to take the train into Manchester (about a 45 minute journey from our nearest town) and come back from there with armfuls of books, one or two months' supply at a time.  It's where I got my copy of "Nineteen Eighty-Four".  At that time, the paperback section was simply the Penguin section - a wall of orange.  (Why did they drop that? It made their books so recognisable that they practically owned the shop).

Or James Thin's on South Bridge in Edinburgh, "Scotland's Biggest Bookshop" (telegraphic address:  "Bookman, Edinburgh" -  I still have their bookmarks).  I found this on two very different occasions. 

The first time was during a  family holiday in Northumbria.  It was a holiday when everything went wrong that could go wrong, with a lot of falling out which I just wanted to get away from.  One day, we went to Edinburgh and I wandered past Thin's... and I wandered into Thin's... and that was when I started reading PG Wodehouse (which I alternated with Orwell).

The second time I found the shop was when I was a student at Edinburgh, I got most of my textbooks there, but it played a particularly important part in my life when I lived in a flat just round the corner from Thin's (New Arthur Place) and we had, in effect, no heating, or none we could afford to use.  I'd go round to Thin's, which opened in the evenings, just to warm up.  One evening I came across Robert Holdstock giving a talk, the first time I'd ever met an author, I think.

Obviously, particular businesses rise and fall, so I'm not going to get all sentimental - well, not too sentimental - about those that have gone, but I think it will be such a shame if there are none left at all. 

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