Monday, 9 August 2010

Bookshops - home and abroad

Last week I was on holiday in Switzerland. One thing that being out of your normal surroundings offers is the chance to see how other countries do things.

I'm always struck by how many more independent bookshops there are abroad than now seems the case in the UK.  Last year when I was in Palma, Majorca, I walked down a street in the old town and found three of significant size. 

It wasn't any different in Switzerland.  In Interlaken where I was based last week, I saw three among all the tourist shops. 

Now I'm not sure how their publishing and bookselling industry is organised but maybe there aren't the same overwhelming constricting deals with large supermarkets and chains over there.  The two big supermarket groups in Switzerland are Migros and Coop.(no I haven't missed out the hyphen.  That's how they spell it over there.)

And yes they did have books and magazines  like in our giants but that didn't seem to have throttled the smaller shops.  Maybe I'm looking at things through rose coloured glasses but I'd like to believe that the independents are thriving. 

I'm looking to buy some books but I want to browse among the topic before I buy.  On Amazon I need to do searches and even with their search inside facility it doesn't give me the same feeling as having the book in my hand..  In Waterstones I'm looking at what people think is commercial and will sell.  On two occasions this year I've searched for what seem to be significant authors in a certain field.  Not only were they not represented on the shelves in the Nottingham Waterstones, they didn't even appear in their online availability.  This despite them being available on Amazon.

But please, I want to look first before I buy.  Is that too much to ask?

Is it just me or are you as frustrated in your book buying?


  1. I live in West Dunbartonshire, just outside Glasgow, and I'm reliably informed that there are no bookshops whatsoever in the entire county. There used to be a Bargain Books in Clydebank but it closed years ago. Granted the West End of Glasgow is only about a half-hour away with loads of second-hand book shops but that's it. The only place you can buy new books near me are in the big supermarkets and who wants to buy what they have to offer? I'd be lost without Amazon et al.

  2. Hi Jim
    Thanks for your comment and a timely reminder of the value of online shopping for those away from towns. I do use Amazon but I do love the feel of the books in my hands before I buy.