Wednesday, 7 October 2015

In Support of Bookshops

I love books. Real, paper-and-card books.

I know I read ebooks occasionally, but you just can't - in my opinion - ever replace the physical book. The weight of it, the smell, the fact that you can go back to it again and again until it's dog-eared and yellowed and the spine's faded...

Because I love books, I love browsing in bookshops. You might remember my trip to Barter Books in Alnwick last year, or the Age UK charity bookshop I found in town?

Last week, I discovered another, though it's a little too far away to be visiting regularly! Topping and Company have a shop in Ely, where I picked up a signed copy of Half a World by Joe Abercrombie... (I was in Ely for the licensing of our ex-curate in her new role as team vicar - a beautiful, blessed event.)

Ignore the optician's window -
the rest of this building is ALL books...

Ely cathedral - view from the top floor.

Anyway, this shop has the best children's section I have EVER seen. Just look at it!

This is the point where the section starts...

Tables piled high with books...

Shelves crammed with books...

More shelves stuffed with books...(and overspill on the floor)

And a whole section devoted to teen reads...


Topping and Co claim to have more than 50,000 titles over three floors in Ely (they also have shops in Bath and St. Andrews), and the variety is astounding. They also organise the Ely Autumn Book Festival throughout October, with events featuring some huge names (Brian Blessed, The Hairy Bikers, David Mitchell to name but three) and some local authors like Susan Grossey - well worth checking out if you live close enough.

Why am I writing about bookshops, then? Bearing in mind that a lot of you reading this are probably authors or avid readers and I'm actually preaching to the converted...

Well, starting on 8th October - Super Thursday - is a national celebration of UK bookshops, culminating in the Big Bookshop Party on the 10th October. You may have heard of it - Books Are My Bag. You can find out more about the campaign on the BAMB website, but essentially, 'this collaboration between publishers, bookshops and authors is the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. For many people bookshops conjure fond images of book readings, in-store cafes and delight at the discovery of a new author. And in fact, 56% of all book-buying decisions are made by consumers in a bookshop - but we must continue to celebrate - and shop in! - our fabulous high street bookshops (both chains and independents) to ensure they are not under threat.'

We've all seen independent bookshops close... here's one a fellow Cloudie - Alan (Mr P as he's affectionately known) - found in Wadebridge, on the North Cornwall coast.

Photo: Alan Peabody

Photo: Alan Peabody

When he sent me the photos through, Alan said "Wadebridge is not quite a tourist hotspot, but is apparently a thriving town with significant tourism based on the Camel Trail. Despite the hope expressed in the notice on the door, it appears that no phoenix has yet risen from the ashes and evidently (I asked around) it's been some time..."

Sad, eh? And I'm sure it's not an isolated case.

If books really ARE your bag, please - PLEASE - support your local bookshops, whether they are teeny indies or branches of country-wide businesses.

It's an experience you just can't recreate online...


  1. So sad to see a bookshop close. I'm happy to say that our local bookshops, Rossiters in Ross-on-Wye and Monmouth, yes we have two...are alive and well.
    They can get almost any book by the next day without postage...(hello Amazon)
    are knowledgeable and helpful...yes they know what books they have in store,
    and they host signings, readings and other literary events.