Liz Hoggard: Support a local bookshop this Christmas

The bookshop, like the library, is the great democratic space

Share
Related Topics

My finger is hovering. I could do all my Christmas shopping in one fell swoop. They'll even wrap the damn things for me and add a personalised message. If I haven't a clue what present to get a friend, they'll remind me what I bought him last year. Or helpfully suggest a few ideas of their own ("People who bought Bat for Lashes frequently buy Ladyhawke").

Yesterday was manic Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the year. The day when internet shoppers spend £417m – without talking to another single individual. It's hardly surprising us chaotic, time-poor types fulfil our desires by computer. Yesterday a new survey revealed that impatient Britons last an average of just eight minutes and 22 seconds before they snap if kept on hold by a call centre, or waiting for an assistant.

I am the original Christmas refusenik. I seethe as I get tangled up in yards of glittery paper. The man hours I lose trying to find the end of the sellotape could fuel a small Third World country. And yet somehow I can't bring myself to surrender completely to the Amazon elves, slaving away in warehouses across the country.

Shouldn't I at least touch the present (give it an honorary blessing, if you like) before dispatching it to a loved one? Now we can communicate so quickly with digital media, it saddens me that letters and parcels have lost a their significance. Of course Amazon, with its standardised brown packages, makes our lives easier. But isn't there something fundamentally worrying about a fully-automated shopping colossus that calls itself a "fulfilment centre"?

Yes they slash the prices on books and DVDs for us. But at whose expense? The poor authors – and small independent presses – who scarcely make a profit. And then there's the thorny issue of censorship. An online retailer with over 100 million customers can choose which books are stocked – and which banned. If you run a warehouse with a roof the size of eight football pitches, do you fill it with promising first-time novelists – or the latest work by Gordon or Nigella?

Independent book and record shops matter. Last week first-time novelist Evie Wyld won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for best work of literature by a UK or Commonwealth writer aged 35 or under. It wouldn't have happened, Wyld insists, without the support of independent booksellers. My local bookshop, Review in Peckham (where Evie still works part-time two days a week) personally shifted 250 copies. Roz, the owner, spent most of the summer pressing first-editions into our hands.

Her shop is the linchpin of the community. She arranges author readings, meals, children's groups and a full-blown literary festival. In a neighbourhood that's both very wealthy (editors and designers snap up the bijoux Georgian houses) and extremely challenged (Southwark is still one of London's poorest boroughs), the bookshop, like the library, is the great democratic space. So – much as I'd like to press that button and get the hardback of Wolf Hall for a thrilling £7.97 or the box set of Pulling (yes, series one and two) for £12.98 – I can't. I have to open my door, walk across the road to a proper shop – and pay full price. Otherwise the things I love won't exist anymore.

lizhoggard@hotmail.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Don’t pity me for eating alone, just give me a better table

Rosie Millard
Aerial view of planned third runway at Heathrow  

Heathrow expansion: This final 'conclusion' has simply fanned the airport flames

Chris Blackhurst
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most