More than a million kindles may have been sold over Christmas, but Marlborough’s White Horse bookshop still beat all expectations and came up trumps with sales, especially of local books.
However, owner Michael Pooley recognises that all independent bookshops face a challenging future, revealing: “Our worry is that ebooks are eroding the business all the time.”
“It is very difficult to see how independent bookshops can get involved selling ebooks. Publishers are thinking of various ways but I fear it is not the way ahead for us.”
“I don’t know if 2012 is going to be a make or break year but it is going to be an extremely difficult one. And some independent bookshops will undoubtedly disappear.”
White Horse has had a good year in general, sales boosted in particular by the second Marlborough Literary Festival in September. “We have done much better than we expected,” Mr Pooley told Marlborough News Online.
And to an extent the bookshop, which he has owned since 1973, is protected because it owns the freehold of the premises.
“The main problem is that part of the business we are in of selling books is now being done cheaper elsewhere,” he pointed out. “And it is not Amazon that is to blame. They are more interested in selling pet food and other things.”
The failure of online Amazon to ensure deliveries of book orders did, however, play a part in the White Horse bookshop’s success. So too the fact that there was a full week’s trading in the run up to Christmas Day.
The dangers ahead lie in whether major chain stores like Waterstones can survive the exploding sale of ebooks. “They are under threat,” he said.
“So it is going to be very interesting to see their results because they are very much in the same market as us.”
Local books that sold well included Roger Day’s Look, Duck & Vanish, a history of 6th Marlborough Battalion of the Wiltshire Home Guard and a history of the Free Family in Marlborough and the Upper Kennet Valley by Martin Crook with Jan Free.
PD James won the race when it came to fiction. But because there was a good spread of fiction available, no one single title sold out, which was very much the same for a wide range of cookery books, basic titles like River Cottage Veg selling well along with Heston Blumenthal.
“Customers don’t come in here and inquire about ebooks,” he added. “That is what is so strange, but it is also why I don’t really think we can get involved selling them.”