Chapters closes its doors: ‘It’s more than a bookshop, it’s really a bit of Dublin’

Tributes paid to Ireland’s largest independent bookstore on its final day of trading

On the display tables in Chapters bookshop in Dublin, surrounding discounted titles is a sign with the words “I’ve been meaning to read that”.

Many shoppers might have concluded that they had meant to visit Chapters on Parnell Street on occasions in the past, but never quite got there.

Now it is too late. There are no shortages of mobile phone shops and fast food outlets within sight of Chapters. There’s only one bookshop in the area however, and it is gone in the same week that the world celebrates 100 years of Dublin’s most famous book, Ulysses.

The largest independent bookstore in Ireland is another commercial casualty of the pandemic.


Customer footfall was not a problem on the last trading day on Monday as long queues formed for the tills and customers filled up hard black plastic trolleys with their purchases.


Chapters, in its various guises, has been about since 1983, when it started in Wicklow Street. Its owners, brothers William and Ger Kinsella, moved to its current location in Parnell Street in 2006.

The problems faced by independent bookshops long pre-dated the pandemic. Online behemoth Amazon has been eating the lunches of bookshops big and small for the last decade, and that was before the pandemic decimated city centre businesses like Chapters that are heavily dependent on the footfall of customers.

On its last day, Chapters’ windows were mostly filled up with military history tomes selling at a fraction of the price they might be expected to command in normal times. Its second-hand section at the back of the premises was cleared out fairly quickly. Everything must go and mostly it did.

"We have been pleasantly overwhelmed and run off our feet," said Sara Whelan, the manager of Chapters and one of 20 full-time and part-time members of staff who now have to find new jobs.

“Chapters stayed open during the pandemic doing phone and online sales. We knew it was an incredible shop and offered so much to the people of Dublin. It has made reading accessible for so many people with second-hand bargains and new releases. Generations of families have visited here.”

Overseas tributes

Staff member Emilie Deprez said wellwishers had made it known how much they appreciated Chapters, many of them from overseas.

Long-time customer Leo O’Connor said that any time he needed a book, he would order through Chapters. “It’s more than a bookshop, it’s really a bit of Dublin,” he explained.

Fellow long-time customer Randall Burkhardt has spent several hundred euro in recent weeks buying bargain-basement tomes which he hopes to be able to give to friends and family as presents.

On Monday he carried out three large bags of books, yet the whole cost of it was just €32.63.

“I am sad about it. It is nice to be able to be generous with books and not to worry about the cost,” he said.

Mary Dwyer described the closure as a "great loss to Dublin" and said the bookshop had been "a wonderful resource for all age groups. It had a great variety of stuff."

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times