Friday, February 26, 2010

Sad Bookshop News

I just read this online. Hughes & Hughes, an Irish bookshop chain best known for their branches in Dublin and Cork airports, have gone into receivership.

I like Hughes & Hughes. They are hit and miss, though - their branch near my office is excellent and the staff are lovely. Their airport branches are nothing special, even by airport bookshop standards. The other branches fall somewhere in between. I also like them because they made Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon their staff pick on its release week, thus revealing their impeccable taste. Oh, and one of their branches has a Costa Coffee in it, and they do very nice caramel slices.

Basically, they're absolutely fine, but if you were visiting Ireland and asked me about good bookshops I would never say 'Oh, you must get to Hughes & Hughes.'

Hughes & Hughes have issued a statement saying, among other things, the following:

"In common with all retailers, Hughes & Hughes have been operating in an environment of collapsing consumer demand due to the weakness of the economy and the exchange rate differential with sterling.

Bookshops also have the added factor of the revolutionary wave of internet competition to deal with.

Further, by virtue of the majority proportion of Hughes & Hughes business being generated through our airport concessions the business has been particularly badly hit by the collapse in passenger numbers passing through Dublin and Cork airports."

In other words, ahem, something a bit like what I said in my post about striking fear into the hearts of Irish book retailers about a month ago. Ahem.

Oops.

I will be sorry to see them go, if it comes to that. Not just because it means a loss of Irish jobs (as an Irish person with a job, I'm in favour of them), but because it's not nice to see the casualties of change.

That being said, I do stand by my earlier comments on the subject. Irish bookshops are already not very competitive for my business. Unless a shop has the book actually in stock, Amazon or its ilk is the only way to go. Ordering a book takes at least a week and it will cost more than just buying it from Amazon.

But if they have what I want, the experience of the high-street, bricks-and-mortar bookshop is unrivalled. I can pick up the books. I can flick through them. I can touch their pages, and this is a very big concern for someone who hates deckle-edged paper. And I cannot stress that word 'hate' enough. There is a nice atmosphere. Browsing in a bookshop is pretty close to the top of my favourite-things-to-do list.

Also, I like to bake, and I like to knit. If I want to buy a recipe or a pattern book, I have to flick. The 'Look Inside!' option on Amazon with its obnoxious exclamation mark just won't cut it. I need to look at every recipe and every pattern. I'm currently chasing a good cupcake recipe book and this quest may take months to complete (I'm smiling enthusiastically at the thought).

And for that reason, I will always be sorry to see another bookshop start to teeter. Fingers crossed, Hughes & Hughes.

6 comments:

  1. Ah, sorry to hear about the bookshop! Amazon is winning--but there are so many pros to having a real book in the hand as one leafs through the pages for info and ideas.

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  2. Hi

    Oh dear - what a shame. Also more so for the workforce. Not a good time to be losing one's job.

    Here's hoping something else rises from the ashes - maybe a new type of bookshop - one that combines the savviness of Amazon with the just about staying power of Waterstones...

    :-)

    Take care
    x

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  3. There is something peaceful about a good bookshop, but I see far too many in my own home city that resemble a poor man's charity shop.

    They have to evolve. They have to find a way to get customers inside. They need to stand out.

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  4. OK, the bad news is that the chain I blogged about has already closed. A day after the news broke, I walked past a branch and it was gone.

    I do hope it scares other chains into rethinking and trying to move forward so we can avoid any more closures.

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  5. It saddens me to hear about bookstores closing, but I have to agree, the Hughes & Hughes in Dublin airport leaves a lot to be desired. But then most airport bookstores do. A few tables to sit in the bookstore area would not go amiss.

    I order from Amazon a lot, but not cookbooks or knitting books. Like you I must check out the book in person. I love leafing through books. One of my favorite passtimes.

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  6. Ann, I just thought of something. I wonder how long it will take them to fill the units in Dublin and Cork? Imagine being a traveller stuck for something to read and finding yourself in an airport temporarily without a bookshop?

    I owe my copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves to an airport bookshop (WH Smith in Heathrow) so I think that although they're generally not great, they can be very useful when you're stuck!

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