Going to a bookshop has always been a huge treat: as a child, I would beg my parents to take me to the local bookshop so I could spend hours looking at the stories which I could fill my bedroom floor with – it having long passed the time when I had any space on my shelves.
And while over the years I may have graduated from the Horrible Histories and the Chronicles of Narnia which used to occupy a fair amount of my time, my love of bookshops has continued. I can still spend hours looking through the shelves, trying to decide between a classic or modern novel, a biography or history.
It can take days or even weeks to decide which one to purchase – a complex system which involves several visits to whichever bookshop I have chosen to frequent during that period of time, each time looking at the book and flicking through the pages before – finally – deciding to buy it.
It makes me extraordinarily happy. The smell, the feel, the different covers tempting me from the shelves.
And then disaster struck: my sister bought me a Kindle.
Disaster is probably not the right word. Indeed, the Kindle has probably saved me from being buried alive when my piles of books finally decide God did not mean for books to be piled in such a haphazard fashion.
And it has been a revelation for someone who uses public transport as much as me – I cannot describe my joy at having an entire bookshelf hidden in my handbag.
But it is a disaster for my love of bookshops. An absolute, unmitigated disaster. I still visit them, of course. I would not abandon an old friend quite so easily. And I still get the same thrill.
But I can’t buy the books I have seen and, invariably, by the time I get home I have forgotten exactly which one I want to buy anyway. And let’s be honest, Amazon just isn’t the same anyway.
Then I started to consider the danger for my much-loved bookshops around the country (I have favourites in each town I have lived) if people like myself start not buying directly from them, but from a faceless internet company. What if my Kindle is one drop in an ocean which could drown all these shops? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
And so I have come up with the perfect solution (for me, anyway).
I want all of the bookshops – from Waterstone’s to the very same local bookshop I frequented as a small child – to make friends with technology.
I would like to be able to go into the shop and it to look much as it has for the last 25 years – as this has served me well – but when I go to buy my book at the counter, I simply plug my Kindle in to upload it. It’s that easy. The best of both worlds.
So, if someone in bookshop HQ can hurry up and develop this, I would be very happy. And if it happens to make a bit of money, I wouldn’t mind a cut…