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The Independents Strike Back

10/06/2007

Interesting piece in today’s Sunday Herald about independent bookshops in Scotland. It seems Hugh Andrew of Birlinn is branching out into bookstores. This has to be a welcome development for writers and readers in Scotland, given the dominance of identikit chain book stores, but the big challenge is how independents will not just survive but thrive against the competition of sites like Amazon.

There are a few odd comments in the article, such as:

The small Elgin store, scheduled to open in the autumn, is considered the last independent Scottish bookshop with the exception of John Smith, which now runs university bookshops.

The “last independent Scottish bookshop”?! Do they mean “independent chain”? Is it a chain? There are certainly other individual independent bookshops, such as Word Power in Edinburgh or Linlithgow Bookshop in, funnily enough, Linlithgow.

And Alasdair Gray is quoted as saying:

the country has “hardly a publisher or bookshop to call its own”.

But there’s a reasonable small press scene here. Aside from Birlinn, Canongate and Luath, there’s a good clutch of pamphlet publishers. Still, one can hardly disagree that it could be a lot healthier and we could have more publishers of bigger size and impact.

Fascinating to see the criticisms of the previous Executive’s approach to publishing and the book trade, though it seems misplaced to criticise the Executive for the growth of big out-of-town bookshops when planning is a local authority responsibility. It will be even more interesting to see how the SNP Executive approaches the matter.

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