I heard this morning in class, and it was later confirmed, that the newish kids on the block, Hughes and Hughes, the Irish booksellers have gone into receivership. Odd, I thought to myself, didn't they post a profit last year?
We're gutted here in Dundalk, as it was a great bookshop with a coffee-shop area, and a lovely children's section, and they were the sort of bookshop that would order it in for you, if they didn't have it. Hell, they'd even ring you to tell you it had arrived. They didn't mind you looking around and the sort of stock they held was definitely a cut above the Easons that we have here - you could buy decent poetry books in it for a start, or more obscure books that you mightn't find. Jeepers, I even found Claire Keegan's last book in it, Walk the Blue Fields.
It means now that for book-purchasing and browsing, I'm constrained to having to go to Dublin, or to rely more heavily on that internet book crowd, than I was before. I'll admit that doesn't help matters, as far as H&H were concerned - I had a tendency to go to the internet quicker than ask a bookshop to order; but that was down to the constraints in the past of juggling kids as well as the sort of books I wanted to get my hands on.
Here, on the outer rim of Europe, sometimes you have to try that little bit harder if you're looking for books that are better known in the UK, or US or beyond: last year I remember going to Waterstones in Dublin and asking for Mick Imlah's The Lost Leader, and them not knowing what I was on about.
So what's a girl to do? Books are moving in a similar direction that music moved in; online access, downloading onto these new fangled reader devices. But does that mean the death of books? And does that mean the death of bookshops? And where does the library fit in to all this, with their (surely by now) reduced budgets in the recession? Am I to become a weird oddity with all those feicin bookshelves I bought to hold all the card-bound paper sheets (that I bought) - with black typing on those sheets!
News reports are saying that high rents were partly to blame for H&H's sudden demise, and that landlords might need to get a little more real with their expectations in the CEC (current economic climate). But the fact that a big bookstore like Waterstones could say that their business was down by 10-15% over the Christmas period tells us a lot (as if we needed to be told) about what people are cutting back on. It can't be good in the long run for writers.