Leading article: Plot twist

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The Independent Online

A page has turned in the world of literary retailing. Christopher Foyle's decision to step back from running the bookshop founded by his grandfather, William, and his brother Gilbert, feels like a historic moment.

Christopher is the last Foyle involved in the management of the independent bookseller, which has been a resident of London's Charing Cross road for more than a century. We should probably be used to this by now. Few of our famous retail names are still run by their founding families.

None of the Sainsbury clan direct the fortunes of the grocery giant any more.

Marks & Spencer is managed by neither a Mr Marks nor a Mr Spencer. And it has been many years since anyone with the name of Boot had anything to do with the direction of the high street chemist. But there is something different about Foyles, perhaps because of its lingering eccentricities and the fact that it has become a London tourist attraction in its own right.

There is something else, too. Mr Foyle has been such a stout champion of independent book stores in recent years that it is tempting to regard his move as a sign of troubled times, as Amazon, corporate book-selling chains and cut-price supermarket offers threaten to bury the independent sector.

But actually, recent figures from the Booksellers Association showed that, though 72 independent bookshops closed last year, 81 new ones opened.

And Foyles itself recently opened a small branch at the refurbished St Pancras station.

So perhaps this is not so much the end of an era as the beginning of a new, hopeful, chapter.