Bookshops are important cultural and community hubs, and make a vital contribution to the health of our high streets and local economies in particular, so it is always disappointing to see them close.
Everyone should sit up and take notice of this. The book trade, the government and the general public need to realise that if we don’t take action now, the future of our bookshops—and therefore the health of the publishing industry and reading itself—is at risk.
However, we have reasons to take heart. There is a huge amount going on to champion bookshops on the high street. We were delighted last year to launch the biggest ever cross-industry campaign in support of bookshops: Books Are My Bag (BAMB), an initiative devised pro bono by the advertising agency M & C Saatchi. Thanks to publishers, suppliers, celebrity supporters and others, hundreds of thousands of the iconic BAMB bags were distributed to shoppers over the autumn, enabling them to promote their love for books and bookshops. The BA/Publishers Association campaign is set to continue in 2014, and the BAMB organisers—under the joint chairs of Dame Gail Rebuck (Penguin Random House) and Patrick Neale (Jaffé & Neale)—are set to announce their plans at LBF in April.
On top of this, publishers are working with bookshops on a case-by-case basis to improve terms of trade for mutual benefit. The BA continually lobbies local, central and European governments on issues such as parking, rents, rates, corporation tax and interoperability in order to improve the trading environment for local stores. With industry and consumer support, we will keep underlining our message: bookshops are valuable to society and our economy, and are worth supporting.
Tim Godfray is chief executive of the Booksellers Association