Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bookshops going Bust

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.

3 comments:

Totalfeckineejit said...

On the one hand books are fantabulous and no amount of techno gimmicky mimmickery is EVER going to totally render the paper thing obsolete.On the other hand proper books are (by and large) fantastically expensive at any time let alone at recession time.I love browsing in bookshops especially if they have a coffee shop but when I find the book I want I make a note of it to order online at home.Except that I can't even afford to do that now.

Landlords have been a curse throughout the ages and even now are causing trouble and suffering.Most of them are greedy bastards (Retail and residential) and should be brought to book.

Niamh B said...

H&H Dunlaoighaire was my favourite bookshop - I could never leave it empty handed, everything about it was great... It's a sad day

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

It makes me sad. I used to work in H&H in Galway. I'm sad for my old colleagues who are now out of jobs. Like the DD one, it had a coffee shop and was friendly and well stocked.
I'll also miss it at the airport where ai always treated myself to something before getting on the plane.
A bad day for Irish bookselling and writers and readers.