Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The new Bastardstone’s

I’ve got to admit that I’m shopaphobic, when it comes to national ‘No Shopping Day’ it doesn’t really affect me, on most days of the year I try to practise the creed anyway. ‘I shop therefore I am’? That just isn’t me.

Visiting the new ‘shopping experience’ Liverpool One I wasn’t arriving with any great expectations, so to find a concrete ‘n’ glass, bleak, austere, clone town, crammed full of the usual suspects that completely failed to lift the human soul, wasn’t exactly a surprise.

Whilst it’s true that nineteenth century Victorian cities were crammed with slums they also managed to create parks, art galleries, museums, libraries and neo-classical town halls. What do we build? Shopping malls. The defining buildings of the age are Bluewater, Meadowhall and the Trafford Centre.

Liverpool One also contains a brand new branch of Waterstone’s. Bookshops are struggling to compete with the Internet and supermarkets, so what has been the response of the chains? Dumb down and stock less books. The new Liverpool Waterstone’s has acres of floor space, but not many… books. There’s piles of ‘3 for 2’ offers, celebrity cook books, ghosted football memoirs and chick-lit.

One of the joys of going into a bookshop is the chance to browse, that journey of discovery, finding that nugget or rare jewel, that old forgotten novel, or obscure esoteric book by a wayward undiscovered author. So why bother going to a bookshop where the stock is so limited? I looked at the education section, it was thin, positively anorexic, there was the usual collection of ‘Getting the Buggers To…’ behavioural manuals and that was about it.

If you treat the customers as fools they will respond accordingly, almost as matter of principle I declined to buy anything. Waterstone’s has joined the race to the bottom by trying to compete with Asda and Tesco’s for the ‘Top 100’ titles, it’s a race they are destined to lose. Thankfully independent booksellers, who do stock a wide range of books, are still surviving. Meanwhile there is that cultural desert that is Waterstone’s.


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