There are less than 1,000 independent bookshops in the UK, a figure that is the lowest the country has had since accurate records of shops began being kept. The Booksellers Association has already called it a crisis situation, as there are just 987 bookshops across the entire country.
“Bookshops are important cultural and community hubs, and make a vital contribution to the health of our high streets and local economies in particular, so it is always disappointing to see them close,” said Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, in an interview with The Bookseller.
“Everyone should sit up and take notice of this. The book trade, the government and the general public need to realise that if we don’t take action now, the future of our bookshops – and therefore the health of the publishing industry and reading itself – is at risk.”
The rise of the ebook culture is being held responsible for the slow demise of independent bookshops across the world. Not surprisingly, Amazon is held as the prime culprit, with Ibis Bookshop owner Linda Jones putting the blame squarely on the online retail giant for driving her out of business. Ibis Bookshop had been in business for 76 years and is the oldest independent bookshop in the UK; it is slated for closure next month.
Other reasons cited for the steady decline in bookshops are high rent (which has made it difficult to maintain a high street presence of late for the owners), parking fees–another factor that too is acting as a deterrent for buyers to actually travel to the bookshops–and supermarkets offering steep discounts on books and periodicals, luring customers away from the bookshops.
The country had 1,535 bookshops in 2005. Sixty-seven bookshops have closed in 2013, though 26 new bookshops also opened last year.
However, not everyone paints a negative picture. As Morag Watkins of Chorleywood Bookshop told The Bookseller, “It’s not all doom and gloom though. Those that have changed their models have been alright. We run festivals, go into schools and basically take the bookshop on the road. We’ve evolved into community-based hubs because we had to.”