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  • Writer's pictureT M Thorne

The Big Book Shop Dilemma

I find myself in a bit of a quandary when it comes to bookshops. I adore them. Old or new, second-hand or antique, big chain or small independent business. Give me a bookshop and a free afternoon and I'll be happy for hours.

I love the look of them, the endless treasure trove of unexpected finds and curiosities. I love the smell when you open brand new book (of course the smell differs depending on the type of paper and debatabley even the genre of the book - I'm sure a thriller smells different to chick-lit). I could happily spend an afternoon in the quiet haven of a bookshop and leave with my arms filled with exciting new novels to lose myself in.

The problem is that I never do. When I have time I visit my local bookshop, like I did today, I have a cappuccino in the neat little cafe tucked in the corner, I browse happily, and sometimes out of guilt or indulgence I’ll buy a book, but usually I leave empty-handed. Why? Because I read eBooks. Indie writers rejoice! I resisted buying a Kindle for a long time but now I'm a total convert. I love the convenience of lying in bed and being able to buy a book on a whim if I'm bored with my current read. I love having half a dozen books at my fingertips on a long journey. Plus my bedside light is woefully inadequate for my middle-aged eyesight and reading on my backlit Kindle is just, well, easier.

Don't get me wrong. I’d dearly love to buy all of the books that grab my attention, but where would all these beautiful books go? I’ve only got a couple of smallish bookshelves and they are already crammed full of loved and dog-eared paperbacks. I also have a towering pile of unread books on my bedside table. My house is so cluttered already that I just can't justify buying more books.

That doesn't mean I never do. Certain authors and certain books simply have to be read on paper, and sometimes I just can't resist buying a particularly striking paperback. But it's not the norm.

So I go through a peculiar window-shopping ritual. I love the experience. Just the atmosphere in a bookshop is calming. It's like pressing my nose up against the window at Hotel Chocolat and inhaling that wonderful chocolatey aroma but never actually buying any. Or just buying one of those tiny packs of chocolates once in a blue moon. I know its not enough to keep their wonderful business afloat, but I have to indulge once in a while.

The quandary I have is this: I'd be devastated if the bookshop went out of business, but I don't buy my books from them. Bookshops are so important, and I adore my local bookshop, but I'm doing very little to support their business at all. I'm buying my books on Amazon and, let's face it, they don't need supporting. They seem to be doing fine thank you very much.

My local bookshop is one of a well known chain and I’m hoping they’re safe from going out of business, but if they did close I’d feel the loss deeply. I take my son there from time to time when he falls out of love with reading, and he’ll share my excitement of finding wonderful new reads while the drinks a hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows. He could never have that experience browsing Amazon.

I don't know what the answer is. Sadly convenience and cost usually win out. Buying at a bookshop is a luxury or an indulgence rather than my go-to solution. I wish there was a way of buying e-books whilst supporting my local store. It would be great if I could go in and browse, drink my coffee and then buy and download the books directly from them onto my Kindle, but I fear that's just not do-able.

I have a horrible feeling Amazon is killing the bookshop and I'm helping them do it.


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