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Books Are My Bag – Part 3

By uczcbsv, on 2 March 2014

After a busy week at UCL it is Sunday already, which means it is time for another Books Are My Bag blog! This week’s Books Are My Bag blog is written by Britt van Klaveren.

Last Friday all of the MA Publishing students at UCL participated in the Books Are My Bag campaign, a national campaign trying to raise awareness for the decline in bookshops and motivating people to support their local bookshops. We were sent to several bookshops, to have a look around and interview the customers present. Did they prefer physical books over digital books? Did they prefer to purchase books in a bookshop or online? How would they feel if bookshops would disappear? Three of us went to Newham Bookshop in East London and started interviewing customers after we had met the owner, a lady who was clearly very passionate about her trade. Initially, I found that a lot of the customers had the same problem I often have. They would answer my questions determinedly: “I prefer physical books, I hardly shop online in order to keep bookshops alive, and I would be very upset if bookshops were to disappear”, but if I asked why, they could not easily articulate an answer.

However, even though they could not articulate their feelings, it did show in other ways. For instance, all the customers that came in were local and had lots of stories to tell about the shop. They had been coming here for years and years. All customers liked to have a stroll around, not necessarily looking for a specific book, but just to see if there was anything in store that they liked. And almost all of the customers had a chat with the owner, whom they all seemed to know. Just being there for a few hours showed the strength of the local community bookshop and the emotional attachment these customers had with their bookshop. When I asked one of the bookshop employee’s about her customers, she replied that they were very loyal to them and would come here from generation to generation. She pointed at a little blue chair in the play material’s, and told me that one week earlier a woman had come in with her daughter and her granddaughter. The daughter used to visit the bookshop when she was little, until she moved away. When she walked into the shop, she saw the little blue chair and immediately started to cry. The bookshop had carried along so many good memories and now, coming in with her own daughter and seeing the chair she used to sit and read on, they all came back to her.

This anecdote genuinely touched me and I believe it really reached the core of the Books Are My Bag Campaign. As the campaign states, they are an awareness campaign, not a sales promotion: the aim is to bring across that people really do enjoy books more in a bookshop and engage with books more in bookshops than they do in online shops. In my opinion, anyone who tries to argue this point should simply be sent to Newham Bookshop – because that is exactly what they will experience there.

Written by Britt van Klaveren

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