THE DIGITAL age may be responsible for a host of benefits in modern life, but many independent book traders have little to thank the internet for.
The rapid growth of online retailers, the chance to buy books on the internet for far cheaper prices and the arrival of electronic tablets like the Kindle to download the latest publications have all played their part in the closure of book stores across the country.
Among the latest casualties in Yorkshire is one of the last remaining independent bookstores in the region’s largest city, Leeds, which has announced plans to shut in the spring. The Bookshop Kirkstall, which has been trading for nearly 30 years, is selling off stock in a sale before it closes on May 4.
Shop owner, Roy Brooks, 70, who first took over the store 25 years ago when it was then known as Almar Books, said: “The reason we are closing down is we have been running at a loss for around four years now, although we still have a reasonably healthy business online.
“Until we started our sale, we would get an average of one or two customers per day. However, the sale itself is going well and the shop is busier than it has been for many years.”
Another independent bookstore owner shutting up shop is David Ford, who has announced he is to close Saltaire Bookshop in the spring after running it for eight-and-a-half years. The 55-year-old hit the headlines in 2014 when The Yorkshire Post revealed that he took just £7.50 in a day of trading at his bookshop on Saltaire Road in the West Yorkshire town.
Mr Ford told The Yorkshire Post that he has decided to retire partly due to health reasons – he has diabetes – but also due to the impact which the internet has had on sales.
He did admit the £7.50 which his shop made on a Thursday in January two years ago was not the worst he had ever experienced – he took just one pound during one particularly quiet day.
Mr Ford, whose wife, Vanessa, works part-time in the bookshop, said: “When I retire, I still want to be able to wander around a bookshop and buy my books there. But if people want to keep their local bookshop open, then they have to use it. There cannot be any simpler message.”
However, the death of the independent bookstore has been greatly exaggerated, according to some traders. In York, there are still eight independent shops selling books and owners have published a leaflet to showcase their businesses.
Among them is Janette Rae, who has run the bookshop which bears her name on Bootham for the last 15 years. She believes independent book shops can still exist alongside the internet, especially if owners embrace technology to help boost sales.
Ms Rae said she makes about half her profits through her shop, which specialises in fine art, design, photography and architecture books, with the other 50 per cent coming from online sales and book fairs as far afield as Los Angeles, Paris and London.
She added: “We are fortunate here in York, as the city has a long history in the book trade. Harrogate is known for its antiques, and here in York we have our books. Contrary to popular belief, there are still alot of people who want to buy their books in an actual shop, which is very heartening. The internet has obviously had an impact, but if book shop owners embrace it, then they can still have a successful business.
“Owners seem to be doing reasonably well and a lot of the shops have a national reputation. I am reasonably optimistic for the future.”
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