Wednesday, 15 July 2009

UNBOOKED

Wandering the length of Oxford Street on Monday looking for a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula (I'll tell you why another time) I was shocked to find that my first port of call, Waterstones, was shut down and boarded up.

So, I soldiered on to the massive branch of Borders where, on the first floor, I was astonished to be confronted by a sign reading 'Classics' and yard upon yard of empty, yawning shelves.

"Excuse me," I asked at the Information desk, "where are classics now?"

"Gone!" came the reply.

"GONE?" I echoed idiotically.

"Yes," said the assistant gloomily, "we're closing down and the classics were the first to go!"

I imagined them, sadly and huffily, marching down the escalator and out the doors in author alphabetical order: Aesop leading and Zeno bring up the rear!

Tragic...

15 comments:

scb said...

I hate to hear of bookstores closing up (although your image of the classics marching down the escalator and out the door was priceless). I went to the websites to see if they would give a reason (other than the economy going down the tubes, not to be confused with the economy going down the Tube, which would just mean the stores might have got off at another station by mistake)... Waterstones doesn't seem to have updated -- maybe they haven't noticed that they've closed a branch?

I had a similar sense of dismay, although didn't express it as well as you have, when I was downtown one day and discovered that the one bookstore left downtown was closing its doors.

Not the books! Noooooooo!


ORSES -- All the king's 'orses and all the king's men can't seem to put bookstores together again. (a sad commentary on the way things are going...)

Bitter Animator said...

We live in the Age of Amazon. And not the scary yet arousing warrior kind.

Physical goods and certainly physical shops seem to be on the decline. We're well on our way to a future of brains in jars living in virtual worlds.

While those brains may well look back and scoff at how primitive we were, I'm actually rather glad to have been born in a physical age, even one in transition.

SharonM said...

Oh dear - apart from the sadness at the lack of Classics, the closing of bookshops doesn't augur well for us writers - especially given the huge whack Amazon takes for selling the hard-earned fruits of our labours.

I went to an independent bookshop in the West End of Glasgow at the weekend to take them a copy of my AI sheet and chat about my book. They'd had lots of events there and it was suggested I call in.
When I got there I was faced with an empty shell and the notice 'Closed, 29 June'.

Qenny said...

Waterstones and Borders both gone? I'm shocked.

Brian Sibley said...

SCB - I thought that, of course, the classics would be the first to go: having been around so long (many of them for centuries) they would leave swiftly - and in high dudgeon - once they'd got wind of a closure....


BITTER ANIMATOR - I agree. Whilst I hope to live long enough to see one of my books on Kindle, it will be tragic if the day comes when we only ever read a book on a screen.

Bizarre though it will doubtless seem to readers in 2029 (or even sooner): the qualities of touch and smell are as much part of reading for me as the words on the page or the thoughts on and between the lines...


SHARON M - Well, if the likes of Waterstones and Borders are calling it quits, what hope is there?

Another thing Amazon simply can't really provide, is the opportunity to browse - almost graze, I might say - the shelves as one can in a bookshop.


QENNY - A sad and sorry sign of the times. The writing is on the wall: "CLOSED"!

Anonymous said...

I'm still mourning the loss of Murder One in Charing Cross Road before I'd completed buying all the Rex Stout Nero Wolf titles I didn't already have! Sadly, the poor stock and service of many local bookshops has driven people like me into the maw of Amazon, though I prefer browsing real shelves.
Roger O B....
AUDIMK:What you write audio books with

Brian Sibley said...

Murder One was a terrific shop with a staff who really knew their books - and, presumably, at least half-a-dozen foolproof methods for doing someone in. You won't find that kind of help at Amazon!

Boll Weavil said...

...but we all shop at Amazon anyway because they're cheaper. We only go to bookshops for things we need in a hurry or just to browse- like a library.I haven't read a book in years - although I listen to plenty. For me, the thrill of books continues to increase because there are now more available to listen to. For the convenience of taking Bram off the shelves, any bookshop would have cost Mr S anything upto £5 or £6 for a book that's copyright free. That's why it ain't there anymore.

NETORWI: The name of the new bar where your fave bookshop used to be.

Suzanne said...

This is so much more than tragic - it's an absolute disaster. There is absolutely nothing in this world comparable to holding a book in one's hands and turning the pages and feeling the jacket, etc..., finding the most comfortable position in your chair that corresponds to the size and kind of book...
Another wonderful thing about the new man in my life (again! - yes I know!) is that he comes with literally hundreds of books. The sad thing is that I shall have to live to about 150 before I get round to reading them all!
leding: the weight of 20 feet of book cases floor to ceiling

Brian Sibley said...

There ought to be a word for measuring others in terms of their bibliophile rating in our lives... Obviously you and your new man (there's no need to apologize for the 'again'!) will score highly!

Brian Sibley said...

Advance warning: I won't have access to a computer for a few days, so any future comments will have to await posting until my return to cyberspace on Monday next.

Jen said...

Bookshops are irresistible,just not
possible to walk past one. As an alternative to Amazon try browsing the Oxfam online bookstore, have recently found some gems & who knows, Brian,they might have Lenny the Lion in their other sections!

APONISMI:euphoric feeling after finding a sought after book.

Phil said...

What Boll Weavil said.

Plus: all those classics, being out of copyright, are easily obtainable free of charge on the web thanks to Project Gutenberg.

Including Bram's classic, Draclia (my preferred spelling!)

Warinds: ominous gusts that blow through the empty shelves of closed-down bookshops.

Brian Sibley said...

I know, PHIL, and the Gutenberg Project is a great facility: but, where there's a choice, give me the old paper-and-print version every time!

Brian Sibley said...

Ooops... Missed JEN's comment... Thanks for that revelation: I'd no idea that Oxfam books were on-line! I'll check it out for Lenny the Lion (and various other lost gems) immediately!