Wednesday 4 May 2016

What difference can one person make?

A few years ago a bookshop took just £7.50 in sales, prompting it to post a plea for support on Facebook.

The press heard of it, customers appeared and sales went up. It was a wonderful story and filled me with hope. Then on 23rd April, 2016, the bookshop closed.

After two years of attempting to visit, I finally made it to The Saltaire Bookshop on Friday, 22nd April.

The bookshop was obviously emptied of a significant amount of its stock and only a shadow of its former self, but even in the sadness of closure I was able to experience a glimpse of what was being lost. What little remained of the heavily discounted books meant I swiftly chose my purchase (Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley), and so I was left to dawdle, look and listen.

The room was so carefully rearranged it could have been possible to miss the empty shelves to the side or the discarded section headers from days of more varied stock. These details caused me sadness, but the obvious effort to ensure the shop was still well presented were what struck me the most: even at the end, the bookseller wasn't giving up until he really had to.

Saying hello to the bookseller, his love for the bookshop was clear. We chatted about his future and books and it wasn't long before more customers joined in. It became one of those unexpected conversations only book lovers can have, taking in everything from the joy of a good book find to the – in my opinion sad – popularity of internet shopping, while inevitably circling back to the loss of the bookshop and the need for people to make the effort to support these important parts of their community.

Indeed, after that Facebook plea back in 2014 my slowness to visit The Saltaire Bookshop is not something I'm proud of, but I can't immediately visit every bookshop and what difference can my one book purchase make?

Well, the initial answer is not a lot. But us readers aren't one person. We're lots of individuals who make up a massive community of book-buyers. And okay, we couldn't all become regular visitors to this one bookshop, but we can become regular visitors to our own locals.

As someone who's never shopped on that dread website I know I'm in the minority, so I'm not about to start lecturing you all on the joys of returning to the high street. However, what if every one of you was to make one change?

What if you were to all buy at least every fourth book from your local bookshop instead of online? Individually that wouldn't make much of a difference to anything, but collectively it probably averages out at everyone making one visit to their local bookshop a month – which means a lot of extra book sales in the real world.

Although how anyone could limit their bookshop visits to once a month is beyond me.

The Saltaire Bookshop (RIP)
1 Myrtle Place, Saltaire, Bradford,
West Yorkshire, BD18 4NB


  1. That's a great cover for Chrome Yellow.

  2. Whilst we do always pop into the local bookshops when we visit somewhere I'm not really blessed with any good ones where I live. There's a secondhand one which we'll buy old Penguin Classics from, a Christian one and then Waterstones. I shop online but use different retailers and I try and support Waterstones because I think it's just as important to have a national book selling chain too.

    1. Independent is my priority, but all bookshops are important, so well done for supporting them. If you must shop online, have you considered Hive? It enables you to support a physical bookshop (see any of the index pages for more information).

    2. I've been using Hive for years, my money goes to Mr B's in Bath.

    3. Good choice! I'm looking forward to visiting there soon.

  3. Great post! I've shared it among my writer/reader chums who buy masses of books.

    1. Thank you! I hope it encourages them to change their buying habits to one in four.


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