In the last decade or two book stores have undergone a revolution. In an attempt to try seize back sales from online giants like Amazon and a host of charity shop/second hand book stores where one can feel ‘smug’ one has saved a volume from being pulped while regaining a piece of ‘history’ at a discount cost they have had to try attract people to them.
This chiefly seems to take the form of instore coffee shops. These subcontracted cafes serve quality franchised coffee in the middle of the store, the enticing smell of roasting coffee beans wafting across the scent of new paper and ink. The chairs and tables themselves tend to be the grotty standard fare of the franchise or these upholstered things that are supposed to be a poor man’s version of a wingchair belonging in a Victorian study.
I find these coffee shops slightly offensive for a number of reasons. They always lack natural light, being in basements or in the middle of the fourth floor in the furthest point on the floor plate from a window. (While the BOOKS which should be sun allergic can see daylight.) This oppression partly caused by the fact that book shelves surrounding the area create a certain claustrophobia even if the whole store had no windows to start with. The coffee tends to be slightly overpriced. People take books from the store and read them in the coffee area like it’s their personal library, oblivious to the fact that they have not purchased aforementioned book and are now breaking the spine of it (nothing worse than receiving a new book with a creased spine) and risking coffee and crumbs on it.
My biggest issue though is someone has clearly thought about lifestyle and the type of middle class person who they think regularly likes and buys books and how they would like to rest between bouts of retail therapy. BUT if they had really thought about what these people wanted, more of these coffee shops should be licensed. Only a few of them carry wine for example. And what ladies who lunch and buy books and bake and knit really want is a nice Chardonnay yes? While the gentleman who gardens and plays golf and wears tweed and polished shoes and read the Economist and Wilbur Smith would like a whisky. And maybe there are actually people under the age of forty who would like to sit in the coffee shop and not have it be so dreary but a little more funky.
Or maybe that’s the point. We want you to feel like we’ve changed for you and adapted for you. But actually we are pretty much as we were twenty years ago with a few frills. And we don’t want the coffee shop overrun because we are actually in the business of books not beans.
But if you are going to do that, just carry on being what you were twenty years ago. There is nothing more pleasing than racks and racks of beautiful book covered scented in new paper and dust motes. This is a bit like when granny died her hair from lilac rinse to auburn with pink streaks and thought she was down with the kids who were now all dyeing their hair white and lilac (which they are!)