How long do you think they’ll last?
Those are the questions that have been on my mind for the past few weeks. They began when I moved to London two months ago and have been stewing away ever since, mixed with troubling reports from the Guardian that the end of books is nigh and the news that The Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill has closed.
Are bookshops going the same way as the record store? Can bookshops hold their weight against e-books and Amazon? Is it possible that all the lovely bookshops I keep walking past and never quite finding the time to visit will disappear before I get the chance to?
I’ve looked on the internet and found plenty of recommendations for London bookshops and plenty of conjecture about their imminent death but nothing that answered my questions or put my mind at ease. So I have decided to take it upon myself to find out. The best way to do that?
Visit every* bookshop in London and ask the booksellers myself.
It’s a simple idea and as a new-Londoner and ex-bookseller I’m in a pretty good position to make the most of it. It’s a way for me to see more of London, spend more of my time around books and, perhaps, help the bookshops in some way.
I’m still working on my grand plan and questions seem to arise quicker than I can answer them, a nowhere-near-exhaustive list being:
What counts as a bookshop? (Not sure) What counts as London? (Zones 1-3) Will booksellers want to talk to me? (Hopefully!) Will I have to visit the naughty bookshops of Soho? (Yes…) Will I embarrass myself in some uber-cool comic bookshop? (Probably) Does Waterstone’s count? (As an ex-W’stones, I think they may have to!) Will I have to visit those super intimidating posh ones near St James’ Park? (Yes)
I’ll be posting again in the next few days with a more concrete plan, so if you want to know more about the project you should follow me on twitter for updates (@1BookontheShelf). If you’d like to get in touch with me about the project you can email me at onebookontheshelf (at) gmail.com.
This post was Freshly Pressed on 6th October; if you are interested in the progress of The London Bookshop project, check here to read about the bookshops I’ve visited so far.
*There will be caveats to this- I don’t want to spend my weeks in Scientology bookshops or visiting every branch of The Works. Not only would this make the blog rather dull but I am also a bit of a book snob (probably best to get that out in the open now!).