This week I'm writing about somewhere that may not sit too well with everyone, but as I've said many times: my interest is in bookshops, so long as the sale is face-to-face I'm happy.
Which means it's about time I write about what's possibly the elephant in the bookshop blog room: Waterstones.
Because while I'm sure we'd all like to only ever shop in our own local, independent bookshop (and grocer, and butcher, and haberdasher, etc), that's simply not always possible in the world we live in.
independent bookshop in the town, but that's another story).
I've chosen this particular branch partly because it's as good as any, and partly because I've had the privilege of chatting to the booksellers on any number of occasions and therefore come to realise that just because they work for a chain store doesn't mean they care any less about the books. I've regularly enjoyed bookish conversations here and one fraught Christmas I even made the most of almost an hour of help as staff found me fiction based around the Second World War; stories suitable for an eight-year-old with a much higher reading age; and, naturally, a couple of recommendations for my own enjoyment.
But what of the bookshop itself? Found in the town centre, it's a busy place of calm among the bustle of frantic clothes shoppers. Spread across two floors, this particular branch has one of the most varied and well-stocked new science fiction sections to compete with any good secondhand bookshop, and for more general readers the recently refurbished fiction area is pretty extensive. There's also a large Costa cafe, which is an easy place to spend several hours relaxing with a book, coffee and cake.
In fact, on the occasion of this particular visit I confess I was only popping in for a coffee with my book, but even so I was still able to enjoy the feel of the shop and take time to admire the many excellent recommendations on my way in - that first table has always been my downfall!
But once again, why am I devoting a page of the blog to a high street chain?
The answer is simple: Because it's a bookshop.
Sure in an ideal world we'd all love to buy from the aforementioned indie, and I will still always prioritise them if given the choice. But when there are no indies in your town which would you prefer - a shop full of books, interesting customers and enthusiastic booksellers, or a lonely computer screen with an online interface?
Waterstone's Fremlin Walk
24 Fremlin Walk, Maidstone, ME14 1QP
Tel: 01622 682042
*Pictured are a small selection of my purchases from Waterstones over the years when this bookshop was my local.