Well, maybe not quite paved, but certainly they were fairly readily available. Nowadays... not so much. A search for my closest independent bookseller tells me that it is the other side of Birmingham, in Walsall, a place called Southcart Books (more about them in a minute). Birmingham, England’s self-proclaimed second city, and once home to the inestimable Andromeda Books, a store containing a veritable cornucopia of science fiction and the like, has no, I repeat, no independent bookstores left.
But you don’t need them, do you? After all, there’s two Waterstones in Birmingham, and there’s always Amazon, everyone’s first choice for –er – pretty much everything these days. They even seller cat litter, you know (generally not for reading purposes).
I’m as guilty as anyone else of shopping at places like Amazon and Waterstones. And to be honest, it’s actually easier to shop online than in store these days. I have gone in to large bookstores on more than one occasion, spent an age in there, and come out empty handed. You see, when confronted by so much choice, it’s actually very difficult to discover that hidden gem that is just the very thing you’ve been dying to read – but didn’t actually know about until the very instant your beady eyes lit upon the cover.
Of course, browsing online actually is no easier – so you tend to shop for particular titles that you know about, or have had recommended, etc. As a result, your capacity to discover, and to actually read, the new, the unusual, the untested, and the non-mainstream, is sorely reduced. Which is exactly where those little independent bookstores come in.
This week (28th June – 5th July) is Independent Booksellers Week - a week dedicated to those few remaining bookstores where it is still possible – and indeed enjoyable – to wander around and browse through a range of different books. Some, perhaps, from local authors or independent publishers. Books that you may never have seen or heard of before, now revealed to you in all their wordy glory (missus). Hopefully, in these places, you can find something to tickle your literary taste-buds, without being overwhelmed by a glut of mainstream titles or swamped in more books than you can possibly choose between.
On Saturday, as part of Independent Booksellers Week, I’ll be taking part in the Writers Gathering at the aforementioned independent Southcart Books in Walsall, along with a number of other authors and publishers. Local author A. Stuart Williams has worked with Scott and Amy, Southcart owners, to arrange the event, and will also be one of the readers – full programme below. Southcart books sell used, new and vintage books and comics with a leaning towards horror, sci-fi and fantasy, and are stocking the works of a range of local authors as well. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to check out my nearest independent bookseller – hope you can come along. And if not why not find out where your nearest independent seller is and pay them a visit? You may be surprised at what you can find...
12pm – 12.15pm: WELCOME AND INTROS: Scott & Amy of Southcart books and A. Stuart Williams.
12.20pm – 12.40pm: A. Stuart Williams – Author, SF/New Pulp/Steampunk.
12.45pm – 1.05pm: Alison Reed - Author, Secretary, Walsall Writers' Circle.
1.10pm – 1.30pm: LM Cooke - Author, Steampunk/Singist.
1.35pm – 1.55pm: Adrian Middleton - Author/Publisher at Fringe Works.
2pm – 2.20pm: Lucy Onions - Author.
2.25pm – 2.45pm: Theresa Derwin - Author/Publisher at KnightWatch Press.
2.50pm – 3.10pm: Rob Grimes - Author/Publisher at The Penguin's Head
3.15pm – 3.35pm: Ian Billings - Children's Author, Playwright and more