Sunday, 17 April 2011

Love and High Fidelity

It’s got to be great fun selling books, right? Or wine, maybe? Or collector records in a high-fidelity kind of way?

Not for a friend who works in a multiple book chain. His new boss doesn’t like books. Worth saying twice: the boss of the branch is proud not to like books. For her, books are units. Like the shoes she used to sell in her last job.

And now the business is being torn to shreds by reductions in public spending – and by Amazon. Maybe that's enough to make you make you hate books. But customers don't hate books - that's what makes them customers. And the same goes for records, and wine, and beer. And the people who love these things can smell contempt.

But that bookstore brand isn’t going to bring back the good times even if it replaces every philistine boss in every branch.

Easy to believe that there’s no room left for the things we love on the High Street? Reality may be that's it's the only thing that there is to offer.

Amazon will own the mass book market. Hypermarkets can have the Gallo business. Apple can do seventy nine cents [or British pennies] per song. And they will all do it well.

But long after the sectoral brands have disappeared into cyberspace there will be people keeping bookstores and wine shops, and places to buy music.

The new ecology of online and massive warehousing turns it into a small but vital need. Our bookstore boss will move on to sell units of something else. People who truly love what they sell will carve out their own place - an antidote to the gigantic.

It’s a long tale.

Photo, Creative Commons, courtesy Thomas Hawk