What does the number of bookshops reveal about a city or town?

Here – in what has been described by one person as a cheap and plastic town – by the coast I have so far found three second-hand bookshops (photos to follow), in addition to WH Smiths. I haven’t seen a Waterstones.

Two of the bookshop owners are near or past retirement age, which makes me wonder what will happen to the stock when they’re no longer around.

So far, I’ve bought a small collection of Rumpole stories (50p) from one. I couldn’t find any in the other small town but I recently discovered that the library here has the entire collection and a few other books by John Mortimer. The library is large for a small town.

Then there are the charity shops which also have lots of books, and an Oxfam shop devoted entirely to books.

I don’t know if the people are particularly bookish but there are far more books on sale than I expected.

Then again, perhaps these locals were given books as presents which they no longer want or need. Or they just prefer to use the space for CDs/DVDs, or for a bigger television.

The last town I was in was the birth place of Izaak Walton but I saw no evidence of his legacy in the people. And the only signs of gratitude from the town were a statue in the park and a plaque. The new library was far smaller than the old one. There were also three large supermarkets within walking distance – two of which opened 24-hrs – and at least three shops selling cheap confectionery and crisps.

I don’t want to get sniffy about this but I’m not giving any prizes for guessing what those locals – and the council – prefer.


About S.A. Aslam

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