It's been quite a while since I've had the chance to browse in a half way decent bookshop, months in fact. The small remaining branch of Waterstones in Leicester is at best adequate, at worst a terrible place for a browse - it's size means that it's mostly bestsellers, books that are being pushed to be bestsellers, and 'dark romance' - in short they don't sell much to tempt me. W H Smiths is basically the same and The Works is far to hit and miss to fill the gap, that bar a few charity shops comprises the choice on my local high street. Today I went to Nottingham which has a decent sized branch of Waterstones with a satisfyingly eclectic selection of stock. It was soul food.
A couple of steps in I found the first book I could want, an hour later I had a whole new wish list and a nice new paperback. It's not that I haven't been enjoying reading recently, I've had a great time working through my Georgette Heyer stash (I noticed today that Jennifer Kloester's Biography of a Best Seller is now out in paperback) but it's a while since I've had the pleasure of picking up a new book (new to me at any rate) and been excited by it and I've missed that feeling.
When people say that amazon will be the death of the traditional bookshop I'm always doubtful and today is exactly why - I spend a reasonable amount of time on amazon just having a look at what they recommend but what they think I might like very rarely captures my imagination. I like the cheap prices, I love the wish list function, and as long as it's legal I'm basically indifferent to their tax and employment shenanigans (which is not the same as saying that I think it should be legal to dodge tax and exploit employees) but I find it a poor place to discover new things. A good bookshop on the other hand can easily persuade me too spend far to much money on a whim (oddly never regretted in the way that clothes purchases can be) and fills me with inspiration and enthusiasm. It doesn't have to be a big bookshop, there are plenty of excellent small independents out there where I never fail to find something interesting (just a pity that none of them are within my city limits) but it does need some passion behind the buying and room for the books that will probably never be best sellers but which inquiring, intelligent, readers (and me) will likely buy enough of to make stocking worthwhile.
A good book shop enriches the community it's part of, a browse round it's shelves is as invigorating as the most satisfying conversation, the internet is great for finding what I want but nowhere near as good at directing me towards the things Ion't know I might need. A shop that's filled with ideas's on the other hand is beyond perfect for that and I miss having easy access to one.