Waterstone's m.d. James Daunt has said booksellers are facing the same “crisis" as libraries as he called on the public to lobby politicians to protect the library service.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's "Four Thought" last night (16th November), Daunt said both bookshops and libraries have an important role to play in tackling illiteracy in the country. He said the benefit of libraries was “inestimable" in comparison to the “tiny amount" of money that would be saved by local councils closing them down. He said: "We are facing a particular and rather dramatic moment of crisis which we share with our fellow purveyors of the written word, librarians, for quite different reasons but coincidentally at precisely the same moment."
He added: "It seems to me a point of national scandal that element of our community is being imperilled and I think all of us should encourage our political masters, in whom obviously the decision ultimately resides, to recognise that this is a tiny cost to keep this inestimable benefit within our communities."
Daunt used the platform to welcome the role supermarkets play in encouraging first time readers to pick up books. “If you start buying books in Tesco you will surely end up in a proper bookshop sooner or later, so I wholly support them," he said.
While he thinks e-books have a place in the market, Daunt said he does not think digital works well across all books, in particular children's books. He said: “I think it is actually extremely dangerous within children's reading because at a mere flick of a click you can go from reading Jane Eyre to being back on Facebook and YouTube and all the other immediate attractions, let alone video games and the like. I am not sure that is a wholly healthy place to be in."
He added: “But we can do this. We can give you completely compelling physical bookshops. You can be part of an ecosystem which has digital, which has this very impersonal internet offer which is highly efficient if you know what you want—bang it can give it to you, but it doesn't give you discovery of a physical bookshop or [the] physical interaction a library gives you."
During the programme, he once again called on publishers to create beautiful physical books, saying they were “an integral part of the reading experience" and used Julian Barnes' hardback A Sense of An Ending (Jonathan Cape) as a good example.