We like to think we’re a literary city. From Charles Dickens’ Penny Readings at St George’s Hall, to the gold embossed covers of Joan Jonker and Helen Forrester, the Liverpool Poets to The Dead Good Poets Society, we’ve always loved a good tale – must be our seafaring roots: Sagas are in the blood.
So, during Independent Booksellers Week, it’s time to take stock, and hear a sobering tale of the unexpected. Liverpool’s longest running independent bookshop, News From Nowhere, is being attacked on all fronts. And it’s not just from the Amazon(.com) – it’s from the home front as well.
“The book trade is eating itself,” Mandy Vere, a member of the women’s collective which runs News From Nowhere, tells SevenStreets, “and it’s the independents who are struggling the most.”
Last year, 103 independent bookstores closed, leaving less than 800 throughout the UK. The end of the Net Book fixed pricing agreement between publishers and the trade in 1996 saw supermarkets grabbing a huge chunk of an industry which was about to face its biggest ever overhaul: an Amazonian one, you could say.
For the past 36 years, News From Nowhere has been a radical presence in a city of change: and remains one of Liverpool’s few remaining independent icons. But when SevenStreets visits during a busy weekday lunchtime at the start of Independent Booksellers Week, just one solitary customer browses the shelves.
Vere, of course, is referring to the practice of discouting – of supermarkets selling Harry Potter for a fiver, and stacking up the Top Gear tie-ins for Father’s Day.