Belfast university bookshop to close

A Belfast academic bookshop has decided to shut its doors after 53 years trading, blaming competition from the internet for declining sales over the last five years.

The Bookshop at Queen’s on University Road in Belfast, Northern Ireland, serves students at the Queen’s University Belfast and has set a provisional date of 31st August to close.

Tim Smyth, manager of the bookshop, said the board of the university-owned bookshop took the decision to close before the shop became unprofitable, which he expected would be next year. He said: “We have always been above the line but next year we will fall below the line. I don’t know how we (independent booksellers) can do it anymore. Certainly the academic model has reached a tipping point now, it is unsustainable.

“We didn’t want to be in a position where we had to limit the range we supply and damage our reputation, which is important to us.”

Smyth said the increasing trend for university lecturers to post notes online had contributed to a decline in sales at the bookshop, along with free internet services such as Google Scholar and Wikipedia which he said students used instead of buying textbooks.

Smyth also anticipated the psychological effect of university tuition fees rises next year would have further impacted on sales, with students feeling less well-off.

After 24 years of employment at the bookshop, he added: “I am genuinely sad but I cannot challenge the fundamentals, and economically you cannot do it anymore. To stay open another year would be delaying the inevitable. We have been more than just a bookshop, we have had politicians coming in to visit us and 25 years ago when the situation was a lot less peaceful, the bookshops was always a shared place where people with markedly different views came and met.”

The bookshop employs 15 staff.