In the UK, many have been forced to close because of the online trade. But some booksellers are reporting healthy business. .
This is the bookshop that inspired the film Notting Hill. Or at least, it was. It's been forced out of business because of rising rent and falling takings. And in the face of competition in the UK market-like elsewhere-from the ebook, that makes weather challenging economic times even harder.
|This is the bookshop that inspired the film Notting Hill. Or at least, it was.
Neil Denny, an editor, said, "It's a difficult period, definitely. There's a double effect of the recession, and digital, such that physical book sales are down on the year about 6 percent but since the summer, down nearly ten percent so that's quite a sharp drop. Some of that is going into digital, but that isn't happening in bookshops- that's happening in digital, so yeah, it's a pretty tough period for the traditional bookshop."
Figures suggest physical bookshops are closing at a reasonably consistent pace, and have been for some years.
What has changed since the arrival of the e-book and online bookshops is that fewer booksellers are opening on British high streets. But it's not all doom and gloom.
Daunt Books now occupies what is claimed to be the oldest custom-built bookshop in the world. It's in central London, and it's thriving even though cheaper books are on offer online.
Brett Wolstencroft, Daunt Books, said, "For a very, very long time now we've been trading on what we are in terms of range and what we are in terms of service. Not in terms of price. And therefore, I think if you're hunting fantastic prices for some time now you've been on the internet, if you're looking for something else, you're still coming in here."
But thriving now doesn't necessarily mean thriving long-term. Will the children of today brought up on smartphones and e-book readers grow up to be adults who want to spend time browsing real shelves full of real book?
Brett Wolstencroft, Daunt Books, said, "I don't know. I've only got my own personal family experience, I mean my own daughter loves books as physical things and that's not because I sit there telling her it's awful to read things on screens, I mean I read things to her on my own Kindle, she still likes to carry and feel a book."
And no one disputes that the shopping experience offered by a physical bookshop is vastly different to buying a book through the internet or downloading an electronic version.
There's no doubt that the online trade and the rise of the e-book have changed life for many British bookshops forever. But what stores like this one are proving is that they are not all condemned to extinction just yet.
(CNTV November 21, 2011)