‘Bookstores are one of the most important elements of any high street’
Sound Off: Bookselling Ireland chair on importance of bookshops, both big and small
“Don’t forget about your local bookshop because the day might come when it’s gone forever.” Photograph: Getty Images
This small island on the edge of Europe is steeped in literary tradition. This ease with the written and spoken word means there is a vibrant literary energy at work across Ireland today, and many writers have found inspiration here and evoked the local people, surrounding landscape and the Irish way of life in their writing.
If you are a visitor, this means there is no shortage of literary things to do, but I can tell you now that book shops are part of the glue that holds that all together.
The challenges that face the High Street across Ireland have led to a concern for the future of retail. Bookshops are no different, with a list of everyday worries on rents, rates and slim margins, to name but a few. With Brexit looming there is now more uncertainty on the challenges to bookselling. This is what is discussed anytime I walk into one of our beautiful bookshops big or small.
The consumer has now changed the way they shop. People are sitting at home on their sofas and buying with their fingertips, which really impacts footfall long term on the high street.
We need to understand that bookstores are not just a place to sell a product. Bookstores are one of the most important elements of any high street – we give advice, we give directions, we act as tour guides and we host events and help keep local communities alive. We also try to sell them books.
We are a nation known for fantastic writers and bookstores are part of our culture. If we value this we need to support our local stores. Over the last two years alone we have seen 25 book shops close their doors and a big percentage of those have been independents.
It is not all doom and gloom. We have faced lots of challenges and we are still standing, but I urge people – don’t forget about your local bookshop because the day might come when it’s gone forever.
John Keane is chair of Bookselling Ireland. The inaugural Irish Book Week takes place from October 27th - November 3rd