This is the post I was going to write this morning, before I became distracted by the day, the email, the rss reader, and so forth.
When I moved to Kingston 16+ years ago, there were no independent bookshops in the town. There were two large branches of Dillons, a large Waterstone’s, two large W H Smiths, a Hammicks and two or three "bargain" bookshops, as well as a sizeable book section in the department store John Lewis, smaller ones within HMV and Bentalls, and a combined children’s toy and bookshop.
Now, the landscape is similar but smaller. The two Dillons are now Waterstones (same shops) and the old Waterstones has gone. The W H Smiths have been merged into one store, but the floor space for books (and games, music and so on) has been severely curtailed to make way for an in-store cafe and a cell-phone concession (both are services that are by no means lacking elsewhere on the town’s mean streets). Hammicks, the children’s shop and the bargain basement shops have gone; we do now have a massive Borders (featuring a Starbucks, but still room for 3 floors of books) and a "Sussex Stationers" that has two walls for current bestselling books, rather of the ilk sold in WHS. If you want a bestseller this is the place to go for price, as they are as good as, sometimes even cheaper than, Amazon. There is still no independent bookshop.
So, in late 1990 there were 6 large chain bookshops, a handful of bargain bookshops and a few "departments" selling books. In early 2007 there are 3 large chain bookshops, 2 shrunken chain shops and a bargain bookshop. The department store sections remain, though with the recent HMV/Waterstone’s news, one wonders for how long some of them will last.
What is the book-buying scene where you live?
Link: Bloggers Blog: Anna Wintour Hates the Word Blog.
Vogue is going to start blogs but, in common with many other people (me included), Anna Wintour does not like the term "blog". Most of the world (me included) can’t think of anything better, makes occasional attempts to use the nicer "weblog" but usually forgets, and moves on. Not Vogue — they are trying to think of an elegant variation. "Blogue" has been suggested. (See more at the link above.)
In a post On the Purpose of Public Libraries, Annoyed Librarian vents her spleen at a "typically excited" attempt to attract teenagers into a local library via provision of video games. So should libraries try any attempt to get people in through the door by any means (even to the extent of providing strippers, as one droll commenter suggests), in the "strange assumption" that they’ll stick around to read, and to be informed and educated, as is the core mission of a library? As Annoyed states:
It seems to me that public libraries no longer have any coherent and compelling mission. They just want to get more people to use them somehow, anyhow. They just want to be all things to all people. Of course it can’t be done, and what might happen is that they fail to do even what they could do well. The goal is just to get bums on seats, and if the libraries are filled to capacity with gaming teens or whomever, then that sad goal will have been accomplished. The new mission of public libraries: bums on seats, luv! It certainly makes me proud to be a librarian.
There is, inevitably, a healthy discussion in the comments in the attempt to find a modern library mission statement. One can read plenty of news about various depressing initiatives in the UK — turning libraries into "ideas centres" and so on — at the excellent Tim Coates’ (future Prime Minister of the UK) Good Library Blog. Tim’s blog is replete with sensible plans for how to run a library service, largely and tragically being ignored as far as I can tell.