The space which used to be my local Borders has turned into an Urban Outfitters. Just down the road there is a Waterstones, and just up the road an HMV.
Recent news that the company which owns these two stores is planning on closing down 60 premises around the country is mildly saddening (especially if they all turn into the horror that is Urban Outfitters), but not exactly ground-breaking news.
In fact, the forty HMV stores which are set to close as part of a cost-cutting measure barely sadden me at all, and I consider myself something of a music lover. The last time I went into a music shop (gosh, it sounds terribly quaint, doesn’t it?) was probably when I bought myself B*Witched’s single on cassette in 1996.
I don’t own a single CD and here’s why: they’re inconvenient, expensive, lifeless and ugly. If I’m going for a digital format Spotify does the job brilliantly. A few clicks of a keyboard and I’ve got an endless supply of songs at my disposal. If I want the warm fuzzy feeling of a record turning I play my vinyl.
CDs fall somewhere in between, with no redeemable feature whatsoever. The death of Spotify would make me shudder – the imminent death of HMV makes me roll my eyes thinking “it’s still around?!”.
If there was ever an opposite reaction though, it would be at the thought of 20 Waterstones stores shutting down – and not just because I’m scared of pretentious clothes shops popping up in their place.
As irritatingly middle-class student-y as it may sound to fawn over the “soul” of real books (and I promise I don’t say this over a Starbuck’s bagel), I admit, slightly embarrassed, that when it comes to literature I am a true paper-and-pen-loving Luddite.
With the contempt that the fashion-savvy save for Topshop, or food connoisseurs feel for Jamie Oliver, I loathed high-street bookshops more than words can describe, taking myself on journeys to find dusty copies of Dostoevsky in a basement in Lewes every Sunday.
But however tragic the demise of the small bookshops and libraries may be, the reality is that they don’t draw people to literature – Borders did. Waterstones, hanging by the thread of its teeth, still might.
A book on a folding screen does not in any way provide a more convenient, cheap, exciting or aesthetically pleasing experience and I am at a loss to understand people’s attraction to e-readers.
Reading is just about all I have left in my life which hasn’t been invaded by cold, hard robots and it helps me sleep well to know that there’s nothing anyone can do to take away the pleasure I get from holding a real book.
Nothing except closing down all the bookshops.