Are independent bookshops a thing of the past?

Will bookshops soon be a thing of the past?

Will bookshops soon be a thing of the past? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Julian Read discusses whether bookshops are becoming a thing of the past with the rising popularity of online book sellers

If your local high street is blessed with an independent bookshop, take a moment to consider just how fortunate you are. Within this Essex Life column I have been lucky enough to feature many independent book shops, but one thing has always been obvious — times have been tough for them in recent years. Between the advent of the internet as a whole and the popularity of ebooks, driving customers through the doors of a bookshop hasn’t been the easiest of endeavours recently.

As someone who loves to read, I know how tempting it is to hear about a book that tickles my fancy and let my fingers dance over a few keys and find it instantly downloaded onto my device. Failing that, another few clicks and it’s ordered, due to be delivered from a big online retailer within a couple of days. A good recent example is High Rise by JG Ballard. The film adaptation, starring Tom Hiddlestone, looks so inviting that I simply have to read the book first. Tempting though it was to download it there and then, I resisted the lure of instant gratification and resolved to hunt it down the next time I was on a high street. If I take the time to pop into a bookshop, I know I can have a chat with the bookseller and find out what other JG Ballard books I might like or get a recommendation for something else entirely.

While the internet is such an amazing resource, it feels as though the tide might be turning somewhat. Sales of ebooks seem to have slowed and last month I was able to share the great news that Saffron Walden will soon be home to Hart’s Bookshop on the high street again. Those of us who love to read know the value of a good bookseller. There aren’t many people in my life who will indulge my need to talk about books all the time, but if I go into a bookshop, I know someone there will.